One of my favorite suggestions is to use a poem when you introduce a new work of literature. My students and I used to read "The Funeral," by Gordon Parks before diving into his novel, The Learning Tree.
The poem helped generate some pre-reading discussion on themes related to the novel. At the close of the unit, we looked at the poem again and saw that our ideas had developed over the last few weeks.
I've also paired W.B. Yeats' poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which helped students work deeply on the theme of aspirations vs. dreams.
Here is Maryland poet Patricia VanAmburg's poem, "World Literature." The prince of Denmark makes a cameo appearance in this poem, so why not pair it with your unit on Hamlet?
by Patricia VanAmburg
Wherever one thing stands,
something stands beside it.
~ Dr. Chudi Okpala
Do we read another culture with
our eyes or its own? Will either way
of looking work? Must we soften
the focus—novice seekers hoping for
an aura—gazers of stars in the night
sky whose steady stare can make light
vanish. The camera obscura, and
our own brains, see things backwards
first—projecting silhouettes and
ghosts. Like Hamlet, we know “there
are more things under heaven, Horatio…”
Like seers, we sense “wherever one
thing stands, something stands beside it.”
When those things fall like dominoes,
we choose to see, or not. Stories tell how
love and faith cure blindness—love and
faith and spit. Spirit. The physical thing
and the thing beside it—reading all that is.
Posted with permission of the author.