Two Poems About the Wind: A Lesson Plan
by Mark Myers

Who Has Seen the Wind?
By Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

The Wind
By Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass -
     O wind, a-blowing all day long,
     O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all -
     O wind, a-blowing all day long,
     O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
     O wind, a-blowing all day long,
     O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Questions for discussion
1.       In both poems, the narrators say that the wind can’t be seen. How do they know it’s there?
2.       Find the pairs of rhyming words in each poem.
3.       Find the questions in each poem. Which questions are answered, and which are left unanswered?
4.       How old is the narrator of the second poem? How do we know?
1.       When an author describes a non-human thing as if it were human, the literary term we use is “personification.” Find some examples of personification in the poems.
2.       Do you think each poem was written for adults, children, or both? Why?
3.       What clues in the second poem tell us how long ago it was written?
4.       What are some examples of things people can’t see, but still believe in? What are some reasons people believe in those things? Do you think these beliefs are reasonable, or unreasonable?

Answers to the questions will vary, but here are some thoughts to get you started.
1.       We can see what it does. We can hear it moving things, and feel it blowing against us.
2.       you/through, I/by; high/sky, pass/grass, long/song, did/hid, call/all, cold/old, tree/me.  There are also similar-sounding words in the middle of lines in the second poem: birds/heard/skirts, strong/young.  These are near-rhymes, and make the poem sound more musical.
3.       “Who has seen the wind?” is asked twice, and answered by the following sentence. “Are you young or old?” and “Are you a beast of field and tree, or just a stronger child than me?” are left unanswered.
4.       We know the narrator is a child, because the poem says “just a stronger child than me.”

1.       Possible answers include leaves trembling (suggesting cold or fear), trees bowing their heads, the wind tossing kites, the wind hiding itself, the wind pushing and calling, the wind singing a loud song, and the wind having an age (young or old).
2.       Both use simple language and ideas, and can be understood by children, but both are also read and enjoyed by adults. Adults might find deeper meaning in them than children would. (Rosetti’s poem is often included in books for children. Stevenson’s is part of his book A Child’s Garden of Verses, written for children.)
3.       The second poem mentions the sound of ladies’ skirts across the grass. It must have been written at a time when women wore long skirts. The poem also uses older language, such as “O” (to indicate someone is being spoken to) and “a-blowing” (nowadays, we would just say “blowing”).
4.       Answers might include emotions or thoughts (love, dreams, the human mind), abstract ideas (mathematics, beauty), things that have a physical effect but no visible form (music, heat, air), things from the past, things to small or far away to be seen with our eyes (bacteria, space), spiritual or religious ideas (God, ghosts, the human spirit).  Possible reasons people believe in them might include other kinds of evidence (sensing or experiencing them), indirect evidence like pictures or television, seeing their effects, hearing or reading about them from reliable sources, reason or logic, faith, or feelings.

Ideas for other classroom activities
1.       Have students read or recite the poems dramatically. If desired, they can add sound effects or movements to illustrate the words. This could be done individually or as a group, with students taking turns saying lines.
2.       Have students create individual or group art projects to illustrate either poem. One possibility: Have students illustrate the poem with drawings or collages. Print or neatly write out the poem and post it on a bulletin board or wall, and post the illustrations around it.