“The Black Chicken Named Poe” is about so much more than Poe. On the surface, the poem tells the story of an eccentric chicken who longs to fly and, through some tragedy and magic, ends up flying with a raven at the end. But, beneath the surface, this poem is about being different, being picked on, our treatment of animals, and the power of hope and belief.
One of the most complex poems in the book in terms of theme, this poem is one that invites deeper discussion. It might be important to first discuss the basic events in the poem, helping children understand the sorrow in the poem and how one of the ravens was accidentally killed by children. Although this may feel like a tough topic for children, research in the field of Children’s Literature shows that children benefit from honest discuss of difficult topics and that the best works of children’s literature will help with this. The poem also lends itself to a discussion of being different. What does it feel like being different? How does that make us feel? And, outside of these serious topics of discussion, there is an important message of magic and hope in the poem, so a discussion of what it feels like to “fly” or be successful, even when others think we may not be successful would work well with this poem.
- As a class, research the intelligence of ravens, chickens, or both. Many children may be surprised at the findings.
- Create a short play, adding dialogue, to accompany the poem. Have children act out the poem with a variety of characters including Poe, the Raven, the boys, the chickens in the farmyard, and the fox.
- Use this poem as the beginning of a unit on chickens in which chickens are researched thoroughly. A class visit from a chicken or a class visit to a local farm would be a great part of this unit. Some teachers may explore the option of raising a fertilized egg in an incubator. Of course, it would be important to ensure the chicken had a good home to go to after the project.
- As a class, visit Poe’s very own Facebook page, which provides updates on Poe’s life and educational information about chickens in general.
Using this poem as inspiration, research famous historical figures who overcame great obstacles to find success. Teachers and parents can also use this poem for an in-depth study of ravens or other corvids and chickens. Research on the intelligence of ravens should be quite interesting to children.