Lesson Plan

“Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Traveling by air these days can be an anxiety-provoking experience for many. Imagine an airport gate where an older person who speaks Arabic has been told over the loudspeaker, in English, a language she does not fully understand, that her plane is delayed. She has a medical situation she must attend to the next day at her destination and fears she won’t arrive in time.  She collapses to the floor and starts crying and wailing. From this kind of tense situation, Naomi Shihab Nye creates the idea of a community where compassion, food, tradition, and commonality are shared.

This lesson plan provides a sequence of activities that you can use with your students before, during, and after reading Gate A-4. Use the whole sequence, or any of the activities, to help your diverse students enter and experience the poem. Feel free to adjust each activity to meet the needs of your particular students. This lesson can be adapted for secondary students in grades 6–12.

This lesson is an adaptation of an original lesson by the Academy of American Poet’s Educator in Residence, Madeleine Fuchs Holzer.

Guiding Questions

What is empathy?

When do you feel safe?

Learning Objectives

Students will create tableaux as a means to understand complex emotions expressed in the narrative of a poem.

Students will explore poetry as a way to develop empathy.