Virtual Visions DVD - Teacher guidance notes

Virtual Visions DVD - Teacher guidance notes
Virtual Visions
Teacher Guidance Notes
An enrichment resource to accompany the
DVD which supports the OCR GCSE English
By teachers, for teachers
The DVD and notes are intended to be an additional, more creative complement to OCR’s Reflections
anthology and the other resources at
It is not anticipated that every poem will be taught using the ideas on the DVD, but that the content can
be used to develop a debate around the poems and the techniques used for enrichment sessions where
these might occur.
Please note that whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the content of these
materials, they are provided as a resource for general information purposes only, to be used at the
direction of teachers and centres.
OCR does not endorse the content of the DVD nor the teacher guidance notes, and accepts no
liability whatsoever for any losses, including losses for any misinterpretation or subsequent impact,
howsoever caused.
This DVD project has been led by Debbie Daniels, seconded English teacher at OCR, from John Willmott School, Sutton Coldfield,
West Midlands. The Teacher Guidance Notes have been produced in collaboration with Jane Davies, Deputy Principal at Manor
Community College, Cambridge. Jane has been teaching English for thirteen years and in her third year became accredited as
an Advanced Skills Teacher. She is passionate about English and finds teaching English to young people both a privilege and an
absolute delight. She has worked as a consultant and delivered national conferences on how to motivate students so that they
engage with the literature they are taught.
Why study poetry?
How to succeed in exams
Literary Heritage Poetry
Robert Browning
Geoffrey Chaucer
Thomas Hardy
Wilfred Owen
Christina Rossetti
William Shakespeare
My Last Duchess
General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Drummer Hodge
The Man He Killed
The Voice
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Spring Offensive
The Send-Off
An Apple-Gathering
Cousin Kate
“No, Thank You, John”
Sonnet 18
Mother, any distance greater than a single span
Cold Knap Lake
Miracle on St David’s Day
Tich Miller
Before You Were Mine
Who Loves You
What Stephen Lawrence has Taught Us
Contemporary Poetry
Simon Armitage
Gillian Clarke
Wendy Cope
Carol-Ann Duffy
Seamus Heaney
Benjamin Zephaniah
Further Support
Supporting worksheets
Introduction to Poetry Study Day
From September 2010, there will be three OCR GCSE English specifications:
GCSE English
GCSE English Language
GCSE English Literature
All three OCR GCSE English specifications have been designed to be enjoyable and
inspiring and to allow you to make the most of your passion for English. They all
provide good links to further study for your learners.
The Virtual Visions DVD and these accompanying teacher guidance notes have been
produced to support OCR’s poetry anthology Reflections. Reflections contains
prescribed poems which can be studied for all three specifications. The poems may
also be used to support teaching in preparation for the unseen poetry option for
OCR has worked with a range of schools and other educational institutions across
England to produce the Virtual Visions DVD, which contains creative and stimulating
examples of how different learners have worked with and interpreted some of the
poems in the anthology. These audio-visual resources are designed to demonstrate a
variety of creative techniques teachers can use to support the teaching of poetry, as
well as being a classroom resource to stimulate discussion about the poems, their
themes and potential for different interpretations. The DVD contains interpretations of
24 of the poems from the anthology. It also contains an introductory section on Why
study poetry? In addition, there are tips on how to succeed in exams from one of the
Principal Examiners for our GCSE specifications.
These teacher guidance notes are intended for use with the DVD, to indicate ways in
which the DVD can be used to explore the poems in the anthology, exploring some of
the techniques used and their effects. The notes also contain discussion prompts and
further interchangeable lesson ideas.
Some of the work on the DVD was produced over one to three lessons, some over a
longer scheme of work, focusing on many skills. Some schools used off-timetable
enrichment days to introduce poetry, using a variety of teaching approaches and
culminating in the production of a creative text (see sample Introduction to Poetry
Study Day plan on pages 46-7) based on one poem.
Please note that these creative approaches are intended to encourage a more
autonomous, exploratory and enjoyable response to the poems, but we anticipate that
teachers and learners will combine this with more formal methods of preparation for
both controlled assessment and examination, including analysis of language and form,
as indicated in the section ‘How to succeed in exams’.
In its report Poetry in Schools, A survey of practice, 2006/07 Ofsted said, ‘The most
effective teaching during the survey made good use of strategies such as; drama and
role play; cloze, sequencing and other activities that encourage pupils to play with and
deconstruct poems; preparing readings of poems; setting poems to music; and
choosing images, including moving images, to match poems. One secondary school
ran a summer school project for gifted and talented pupils which involved creating a
short film, using a poem as a stimulus. This had been so successful that the
department was seeking to develop the project within its normal taught programme for
all pupils.’
We hope that the ideas in the DVD and these teacher guidance materials support the
spirit of these observations to stimulate learners and teachers and help towards making
the study of poetry engaging, rewarding and successful.
Why study poetry?
This section consists of a 26 minute filmed panel discussion of the above topic,
including contributions from year 11 learners from Bournville School in Birmingham.
The panel consists of two professional writers and a senior member of OCR’s English
qualifications team. Panel members engage in a lively and informal debate which
brings in multiple viewpoints and tackles questions which students might ask about
studying poetry.
It could be used at the beginning of the poetry element of the course to help learners
appreciate the importance and purpose of poetry study.
Possible Introductory Lesson Plan – based on one hour lesson
Lesson Objectives
To understand some of the reasons why poetry is studied
To consider some of the elements of effective poetry
To develop a personal response and engage with some of the debates around poetry
Questions for discussion in small groups, followed by sharing ideas as a class –
Why study poetry?
Is poetry important?
What makes a good poem?
Do you have a favourite poem?
What kind of person do you imagine a poet to be?
Can you think of ways in which poetry is all around us?
(10 mins)
Show the opening and section with the year 11 learners from Bournville School.
What responses to the questions did Bournville students give?
Which ideas do you agree/disagree with?
(6 mins viewing plus
9 mins discussion)
Continue to show the rest of the discussion, asking students to note down any
responses they or Bournville hadn’t thought of. The DVD can be paused at any time
to invite responses from the class.
(20 mins viewing plus
10 mins discussion)
So why study poetry? Place cards in different corners of the room, saying ‘to
entertain’, ‘to expose injustice’, ‘to show the power of language’, ‘to share and
make sense of what it is to be human’. Learners to go and stand under the card
with the words they agree with most. Ask some to justify their choice. Ask for other
reasons students may have thought of or picked up on during the lesson.
(5 mins)
How to succeed in exams
Paul O’Connor, one of the Principal Examiners for our English specifications, offers tips
to learners on how to prepare for the poetry elements of the examinations. This could
be used as a revision tool close to mock and formal examinations. The steps
described on the DVD are also transcribed on the next page for teacher reference.
It is suggested teachers could pause the DVD between the different sections to discuss
with their learners the points made. The worksheet on page 10 contains the headlines
for each point, and students may wish to make more detailed notes whilst watching or
during discussion of each point.
How to succeed in exams - Transcript
How should you approach an assessment in an exam? Let’s follow these next 12
steps to show how you can develop your response to the exam.
1. Enjoy the poem
The first thing we want you to do is to enjoy the poem. Read it out loud, not just once,
not just twice but at least three times. Read it out loud so you can enjoy the sounds
and the words. Even if you are in an exam you can read it out loud inside your head by
thinking through, emphasising each word. Remember that your enjoyment of the poem
and your personal engagement with the poem will get you more marks.
2. Understand the straightforward meaning
Make sure you understand the straightforward meaning of the poem. So often
students lose marks in an exam because they don’t understand the literal,
straightforward, surface meaning of the poem. Make sure you’re clear about the
situation, the subject or someone the poem is describing. The question will give you a
clue because it will ask you to concentrate on a particular aspect of the poem.
3. Look for clues for the poem’s implied meaning
Learners need to look for clues for the poem’s implied meaning; its hidden meaning; its
message. This is a more challenging task because you have to look for clues to work
out what ideas, thoughts or feelings the poet has about the subject but taking this
approach you’ll be able to get higher marks in the exam. To get the highest marks you
should consider different ways the writer might want people to understand his poem
and different ways that readers might respond.
4. Work out the poet’s attitude to the subject
Now work out the poet’s attitude towards the subject. Who is speaking? Is it the poet
or is it a persona adopted by the poet? What tone of voice is the poet using? Is the
poet happy or sad? Are they angry or humorous? And remember – watch out for
irony, where the poet may be saying one thing but mean something else.
5. Highlighting relevant details
Now start to prepare the poem by highlighting significant details. Work your way
through, highlighting words and phrases that strike you. Maybe you just like the sound
of them; maybe they stand out in some way; maybe you’re just not sure what they
mean. Once you’ve highlighted these details, make notes in the margin to help you
remember your ideas later.
6. Writing an overview of the poem
Start to organise your response to the question by writing an overview of the poem. So
often students will go straight into analysing the poem in detail without taking a step
back to look at the big picture and to get a real sense of what the whole poem is about.
In your introduction you should consider what the subject, situation or someone is that
the poet is describing and what their thoughts and feelings are about it.
7. Explore the words and phrases
Now you begin to explore the poem, the meanings of the poem and the words and
phrases and features that the poet has used to convey their thoughts and feelings.
Begin by looking at the structure of the poem. Then look at the patterns of sounds, the
repetitions, the rhyme and the rhythm and then the images the poet has used and the
particular words or phrases they have chosen. Always ask yourself why they have
chosen this particular phrase or this particular word rather than that one.
8. Use short, relevant quotations
Use short relevant quotations only. It’s best not to copy out long sections of the poem.
You can show that you really understand exactly what the poet is doing by
concentrating on individual words or phrases. You don’t have much time in the
examination so make sure you choose the best quotations only. Quotations where you
need to do some interpretation or quotations that will allow you to show what you really
know about the poem.
9. Start with the meanings that the poet wants to convey
When you’re writing about the poem in detail, start with the meanings that the poet
wants to convey and then show how the words and phrases, how the language and
structure helps the poet to convey their ideas. Don’t just list the techniques without
explaining why the poet has used them or what effect they have created. And don’t
explain what the techniques are. Usually the examiner will know exactly what they are.
10. Make comparisons with another poem
Making comparisons between poems can help you bring out the meaning of a poem.
You may not be asked to do that directly but it can help you bring out what the poet is
trying to convey. If you can, put the poems side by side and highlight similarities in one
colour and differences in a different colour. Draw lines between the poems to show the
connections you want to make. Always start your response by considering the different
thoughts and feelings the poet has towards the situation, subject or someone that the
poet describes.
11. Making comparisons
There are two ways to make a comparison between poems. The first way is to write
about one poem first of all. Work your way through it in detail and then start to write
about the second poem referring back to the first poem as you explore each detail in
the second poem. The other way to compare two poems is by comparing throughout
your response. As you refer to one detail in the first poem, straight away refer to a
similar or different detail in the second poem. This is a much more challenging task but
it will help you get the highest grades.
12. Finally
Remember what we are asking you to do in your response to these poems. We are
asking you to express your ideas clearly, to organise your ideas coherently but most of
all to show you have enjoyed and engaged with the poems. This will help you get the
highest marks. Good luck.
How to succeed in exams
1. Enjoy the poem
2. Understand the straightforward meaning
3. Look for clues for the poem’s implied meaning
4. Work out the poet’s attitude to the subject
5. Highlight relevant details
6. Write an overview of the poem
7. Explore the words and phrases
8. Use short, relevant quotations
9. Start with the meanings that the poet wants to convey
10. Make comparisons with another poem
Literary Heritage Poems
Robert Browning
My Last Duchess
In this famous dramatic monologue the speaker is giving a tour of his artworks and
shows the emissary of his betrothed a portrait of his late wife.
This short movie shows how students have followed the process of writing and
performing a response to the poem in role as characters from the poem, and then
reflected on what they have done.
• Students could adopt this process and write their own scenes to be performed to
their peers, followed by a summary and evaluation of the activities.
• This could be further extended to discuss what they have learned from the
experience and how effective they think this way of exploring the poem is.
• How does the Duke epitomise the cultural/social/historical context of the poem?
• Did he kill his last wife?
• Did the Duchess behave improperly - especially towards the painter and other men
she came into contact with?
• What is the point of view of the speaker in the poem and his feelings towards the
• Which character do you have most empathy for?
• Why does the Duke want another wife?
• What do you think the feelings of his next wife might be?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could create word maps of key uses of language in the poem by
highlighting a word from each line that engages them. They could then find an
image to go alongside their language choice, and present the two as a word wall or
• Role play activity, interviewing characters in role
• Write the Duchess’s letter to a friend, written before her disappearance, describing
what life is like with the Duke
• Improvise the conversation between the emissary and the Duke’s prospective wife
after the conversation in the poem.
Geoffrey Chaucer
General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
The General Prologue, written around 1378, introduces the characters who are
travelling on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and sets the scene for the Canterbury Tales.
Students have worked in groups on different characters from General Prologue over a
period of five lessons. Each group has produced images to represent their character,
and then written their own rhyming couplet poems, giving a contemporary interpretation
of their character. The images have been put together using Movie Maker and
students have prepared a voiceover reading of their own rhyming couplet poems to
accompany their images.
• The use of voice is strong in each of the representations. In the Knight’s
introduction, two voices join to represent the Knight and the Squire travelling
together. The Prioresse addresses the audience directly which reflects her worldly
aspirations. These are questioned by the echoing ‘absent presence’ voice in the
poem. This voice is disapproving and helps to convey the irony evident in the
original. The use of rap as a medium for the Miller’s voiceover is effective as it could
be said to portray him as anti-establishment and belligerent.
• Images are used effectively here too. The line drawings used for the Cook suggest
how he may have gained his ‘mormal’ and the importance of cooking to him. The
eyes of the nun are seen first whilst she is addressing the audience and this may
reflect her vain nature. Appearances are important to the nun, and the use of the
image of the eye reflects this. Other effective images include the Knight’s shield,
with the English red cross and a heart to represent courtly love in the centre. The
purse full of money indicates the Summoner’s corruption and desire for money.
• The way the students incorporate hand written quotes from the text is effective
because we are reminded of the cultural and historical context of the poem and of
the original richness of Chaucer’s language. The quotation at the end of the
Prioresse’s portrait alerts the audience to the irony in the presentation of her
character. At the end of the Summoner’s portrait, the word ‘Aferd’ lingers in a
menacing manner, to emphasise the sinister nature of his character.
• How would you describe each character, using one adjective?
• Which character’s images tell us most about him/her?
• Referring back to the original text, which interpretation most closely matches what is
conveyed in Chaucer’s poem, in your opinion? Why?
Lesson ideas
• Students could use the space in the classroom and organise ‘character most likely
to…’ areas. Students could research the historical context and come up with their
own categories. Students can then be given a character’s name and must go to
the space in the room with the statement that best fits them. They should explain
the reasons for their position.
• Choose a character and describe to others in the class what they have been doing
a week before the start of the pilgrimage.
• Provide a music soundtrack for each character to suit the film.
• Prepare a script and storyboard for your own ‘movie’ of one of the other characters.
Thomas Hardy
Drummer Hodge
Drummer Hodge describes the burial of an English soldier in the Boer war which took
place in South Africa between 1899 -1902. Drummers were usually the youngest of
soldiers and were considered to be too young to fight.
Students completed this work over one day, working with an English teacher initially,
then with an art specialist who demonstrated a variety of interesting art techniques.
Groups produced their own still/moving images based on one stanza. A recording of
the poem was made with two students reading a line at a time. The work was put
together using iMovie.
• The figures are child-like and simplistic, reflecting the age of the soldier and
reinforcing the idea that this is an even more tragic consequence of war due to his
• In the interpretation of the poem, the drummer is smiling and without a weapon emphasising the optimism of youth perhaps and the innocence that is lost as a
result of war. The use of animation also emphasises the way that soldiers were
often de-personalised in death and left to rest often ‘uncoffined’, where they fell. It
also emphasises the alienation that the soldiers would have felt fighting on foreign
ground and many ultimately dying in distant locations.
• The interpretation uses sand to reflect the burial place for the young drummer. This
could show the juxtaposition between the green Wessex countryside which was the
soldier’s home and the South African ‘Karoo’ or dry dusty bush where he is buried.
• The use of non-diagetic sound which accompanies the animation represents the
sound of the drum played by the soldier and conveys a sense of ritual and pathos.
• There are images of stars in the interpretation. The stars are ‘strange-eyed
constellations’ and these foreign stars highlight Hodge’s alien grave. Hodge would
have seen the constellations before his death but too rarely for him to know them.
The use of star imagery in the interpretation emphasises again how this soldier
would have just been one of thousands who died under a vast and alien sky.
• There are a few images of a house during the animation - this can be linked to the
references to ‘home’ and ‘homely northern breast’ in the poem and again shows the
contrast between the home loving farm labourer turned drummer boy (‘hodge’ was a
term used to describe a farm labourer) and the hostile landscape in the Southern
hemisphere that becomes his final resting place.
• What is the purpose of the animated opening to the poem?
• What effect does the drumming have during the animation of the poem?
• Which images did you find most arresting? Can you work out how they were
Lesson ideas
• Students could research the Boer War and present the poem as part of a report on
life for the soldiers fighting far away from home as well as the war itself. Students
may wish to film their reports and present to another audience, for example a
History class.
• Students are given character cards with the names of people who would have a
view on war, and the Boer war in particular. Students then have to write and
perform a two minute dialogue about their attitude to war from their character’s
point of view, using if they can some of the phrases/vocabulary from the poem.
Drummer Hodge
Drummer Hodge’s
commanding officer
A nurse on the
Thomas Hardy
Drummer Hodge’s
A soldier from the
Dutch ‘Boer’ side.
(students’ own
choice of character)
(students’ own
choice of character)
The Man He Killed
The Man He Killed is a monologue written at the time of the Boer War, although it could
refer to any war. It is written in the first person from the point of view of a soldier who
contemplated how war made him kill this man; a man that in other circumstances could
have been a friend.
This interpretation focuses both on the lead up to and the finished presentations by the
students. There are two very different approaches. The first is a debate and the
setting of challenges to the class. The second is a dance interpretation of the poem.
The teacher begins with a key question and relates the poem to a statistic about
the Iraq war. The poem is written from the point of view of a soldier who fought in
action, although Hardy never fought himself. It encourages students to think about
the idea of killing in this way, and shows that although this poem was written about
a war which took place over a hundred years ago, the themes are as relevant now
because we are a country still engaged in combat abroad.
The discussions focus on the arguments for and against killing. The students have
to listen to the views of others, whilst offering their own. What makes this more
challenging is that the students may have to argue a point of view that they do not
necessarily agree with, so they must use all the techniques of preparing an
argument that they have learnt in this part of the process.
The Campaign interpretation is effective with its focus on the need for more ’people’
poems. The use of the direct address, the rhetorical techniques used, and the
campaign rosettes worn by the students fit with the genre. It also mirrors the use of
propaganda in wars to convince the public that killing for one’s country was the
right thing to do.
The News Report is typical of its genre, using a combination of in-studio comment,
plus a journalist reporting from the war scene.
The Weather Report is highly innovative, and reflects the development of emotion
through the poem by using weather symbols.
The contemporary dance interpretation shows the juxtaposition of comradeship and
friendship, with the fighting and conflict. The dancers are dressed in black,
representing death and the way perhaps that war dehumanises and anonymises
soldiers. Much of the dance is choreographed using pair work, which reflects the
idea that the men in battle are similar in terms of background, age and experience.
They both attract and repel in movements which shows the tension felt because of
nothing more than a shared and futile circumstance. The ending is dramatic and
• Is it ever right to kill?
Which words from the poem appear to have informed the dance interpretation
Which interpretation gives you the best insight into the poem and why?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could think about the themes shown in each stanza of the poem then
prepare two headlines for a tabloid newspaper for each stanza. One headline could
be in favour and one against the war.
• Students could prepare a still image for a line of the poem. The class could guess
which line from the poem they think it is and the student could explain their choice
to the class.
• Students could prepare the Museum Tour and Display and the Crimewatch
Reconstruction as indicated in the film.
The Voice
This is a poem about Hardy’s first wife, which begins optimistically when he thinks he
hears her calling to him, but ends with a sense of renewed loss.
After studying the poem, students created their own dance interpretation of the poem.
The dance interpretation reflects the relationship between the speaker and the
absent presence in the poem: his beloved.
The dancers work together to represent the idea of coming together but only
fleetingly. The movements, which are synchronised, could reflect Hardy’s loss of
his wife and his need for her to appear to him once more.
We get the sense through the use of fluid movements of the dancers of the
anapaestic metre of the first three stanzas and then in the final stanza, a less fluent
rhythm representing the more desolate mood of Hardy.
The dancers are dressed in black, representing death, shadow and the spirit.
There are many repeated sequences of movements in the interpretation. This may
represent the idea that life is a cycle, echoed in the last line of the poem perhaps:
“And the woman calling”. Hardy knows he has to move on alone, but is resisting.
• Which line in the poem reflects the dance interpretation best, in your opinion?
• Design the staging for this dance interpretation. What set/props would you include,
appropriate to the text of the poem?
• Think again about the interpretation you watched. Did it make you think about the
relationship in the poem in positive or negative way?
Lesson Ideas
• Using a phrase, or line from the poem, prepare ‘before’ and ‘after’ images which
could represent the past and present situation for the poet.
• In groups prepare a reading of the poem which conveys the wistfulness and reflects
the rich use of sound in the poem, including assonance, repetition and rhyme.
What sound effects could you use to help your interpretation?
• The use of pathetic fallacy is very powerful in this poem. Create images for the last
two stanzas focusing on the way in which the weather and setting contribute to the
mood and the feelings of the poet.
Wilfred Owen
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth is a sonnet written by Owen while he was in hospital
recovering from shellshock. It describes the lack of recognition and burial ceremony for
soldiers who die in war, comparing their deaths with the slaughter of cattle.
The interpretation focuses on students working together to provide an appropriate
soundtrack to accompany the poem. An anthem is a song of praise and is used
ironically as a title, and here we see students creating their own anthem for the poem.
The students are seen at the start of the film working in small groups and pairs
exploring the instruments. They discuss and draft music to represent the marching
of the soldiers, and the sounds of the horror of war.
The plaintive electric guitar could represent the idea of a loss of innocence. Many of
the soldiers who signed up for service were under age.
The sounds created reflect some of the key onomatopoeic and alliterative language
in the poem:- ‘shrill’, ‘patter’, ‘bells’, ‘rifle’s rapid rattle’, ‘wailing’.
The last session when all the students play together exemplifies the idea of
comradeship, or the clash of ideas that causes wars in the first place. It could also
represent the idea that in war, we lose our identities and become faceless and
nameless, existing not as an individual, but as part of a machine.
• What noises of war can you hear in the musical interpretation and how do they
relate to the use of onomatopoeia and alliteration in the poem?
• Explain the treatment of soldiers who fought in the First World War, as depicted in
the poem and the sounds of the musical interpretation.
• Which instrument most effectively recreates the emotion in the poem, in your view?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could prepare for a podcast called ‘Remembrance’ – what techniques
does Owen use in this poem to make sure the reader doesn’t forget what has
happened? Students could focus on one aspect of poetic devices, e.g. imagery,
structure, alliteration etc and what this adds to the meaning of the poem and the
theme of remembrance. Students could also research the social and historical
background of world war one and include this also in the podcast. Students could
listen to and comment on each other’s podcasts.
• Plan a Remembrance Service, including the address to the attendees, using words
from the poem, music and speeches by local dignitaries and families. Students
could include a mood wall for ‘war’ and ‘peace’, or a freedom wall, containing
images, words, colours, news stories etc to reflect the theme.
• Search the internet for images to accompany a reading of the poem and write a
commentary on your choices.
Students took part in a workshop with the poet Julie Boden, focusing on breathing and
sound exercises as preparation for poetry performances.
One of only five poems published in Owen’s lifetime, Futility explores grief on the death
of a comrade, using the image of the sun, so powerful in giving life yet powerless
against the destruction of war.
This is a reading of the poem by the poet Julie Boden who explains to the students the
influential effect the poem had on her. A teacher’s sensitive reading of a poem can be
engaging to students, as well as modelling techniques of delivery.
The introduction gives a context and stimulates interest in the poem.
The reading of the poem shows varied use of tone of voice and uses pauses
• Is war futile?
• When you heard the poem read, what images came into your head?
• Why do you think the poet was moved so much by the poem?
• If you had to keep only three words from this poem to remember, which words
would you choose and why?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could work in pairs and present the poem combining lines from the poem
and research they have undertaken on WWI. Students could develop this idea
further by inviting a third student to direct the presentation and therefore to discuss
how voice, non-verbal gestures and physical placing on stage can add to the
• Students could read selected lines of the poem to a much wider audience and ask
for their responses to the poem. Students could share these with the rest of the
class and create a response wall which could be updated by others in the school
and local community.
• Students could write a speech about the futility of war, using speech-writing
techniques and words from the poem, as well as students’ own emotive language.
The audience could be other students, a group of politicians etc.
Spring Offensive
This sombre poem explores the waiting period before battle and the subsequent frantic
activity of battle, and its aftermath which leaves the survivors shocked and
subsequently unable to speak of their comrades who died in it.
Students studied the poem along with techniques of delivery then gave a prepared
group performance of the poem. The second whole group reading is much more
experimental, where students are encouraged to join in the reading whenever they
wish, varying volume with different words and phrases as they feel appropriate. It
creates an interesting choral effect.
The approach focuses on representing the language and themes of the poem by
using a variety of reading techniques. The first is prepared in advance and to
camera, and decisions have been made within the group as to who speaks and
how many voices speak words and phrases, ending with one speaker for the last,
poignant line.
The second more exploratory approach begins with a small number of voices,
sometimes reading in unison and sometimes independently. The method works
well with this poem, reflecting the tension before the offensive begins and the
nervousness amongst the troops. It could also show the theme of the camaraderie
that runs through Owen’s work. As the reading continues, we see all the students
taking part in reading the poem out loud. There are some interesting uses of loud
and quiet, as well as a change in speed at the most dramatic points. The use of
voices in this way could represent fighting in the war. Voices together and apart,
the tension and fear shown by lowering voices and using one voice.
• Which line did you feel was performed most effectively in the first performance and
• What questions would you want to ask the performers?
• In the second performance, which lines read aloud appeared to be most
passionately expressed? Why do you think this is?
Lesson Ideas
• You are the director of the students in the film. You have to provide detailed stage
directions for every line of the poem, thinking about how you would position the
students, how they would use non-verbal gestures and sound to represent the
language and themes seen.
• Prepare a performance, allocating one line or phrase up to punctuation to one
student. The student should learn the line. With students standing in a circle, each
student in order should walk into the centre of the circle and say their line with
• Select one line or section up to punctuation and ‘interview’ five people
independently, asking them what they think the line ‘means’, to explore different
possible interpretations. Incorporate at least two of the ideas into a sentence which
analyses the line. The poem could be displayed in the classroom with the sentence
The Send-Off
This poem explores the tragedy of soldiers being sent to war with the tragic knowledge
that few will return.
This performance involves effective use of different voices and pitches to symbolise the
tensions in the poem.
We see the students choosing to read specific words and phrases together. An
example of this from the first stanza is ‘grimly gay’ and ‘dead’. We are reminded of
the unity of soldiers concentrating on being cheerful and, with the use of the word
‘dead’, the shock and finality of its reality.
This is again effective when the voices are used interchangeably with the words “a
few, a few, too few”. We are reminded again of the loss of life here.
The change in pitch in the word ‘silent’ works well also.
• What is the effect of having only one person speaking the last line?
• Which other words should be spoken by only one voice and why?
• What one piece of advice would you offer this group to improve their performance
Lesson ideas
• Students could improvise an interview of one of the soldiers waiting to go to war.
• Students could use key lines and phrases from the poem and provide a series of
vox pops around the subject of the poem, or a documentary approach with a
commentary giving some of the historical context.
• Students could present the poem through images only and then write a
commentary on each others’ images to accompany.
Christina Rossetti
Students were invited to produce their own video interpretations of any of the poems
from the anthology and did so in thoughtful and diverse ways.
An Apple Gathering
This poem conveys disillusionment and disappointment, a common theme in Rossetti’s
The first image is of the speaker with a piece of apple blossom in her hair. This
could refer to the apple blossoms she plucked from the tree. She plucked the
blossoms from the tree too soon and although was able to enjoy the beauty of the
flowers, she was not able to take full pleasure in the fruits of the tree and once
picked, they decomposed.
This feeling of regret is demonstrated by the other images of the speaker. In the
next scene the blossoms have gone, she looks older, her hair is tied back and she
is wearing a scarf which she later uses to hide behind.
We also hear in the background whispering voices. This is an effective technique
and could reflect the lines in the poem ‘my neighbours mocked me while they saw
me pass so empty handed back’. Those around her see she attempted to reap the
fruit before it was sown. This is a metaphor for her actions of giving herself to the
man too quickly and this is another reason why she is being mocked by a society
and time that condemned such behaviour.
The image of the couple in the house is juxtaposed with the hostile weather outside
and the obvious isolation felt by the speaker. This could also reflect the idea that
the girl who waited rather than experienced the pleasure of intimacy is the girl that
‘Willie’, the male presence in the poem, desires. We see the character of Willie fade
in and out of shot, just as their love was transient and did not last. The persona in
the poem did not conform to society’s rules as did the other girls picking flowers,
and because of this lapse, is lonely and shunned. The reflected face in the mirror
suggests she now has time to reflect on her actions in this poem.
• What is the effect of the winter setting?
• How are windows and mirrors used to support the ideas and themes of the poem?
• Does society still make judgments on women’s sexual behaviour?
• Give some alternative titles for the film version of the poem.
Lesson Ideas
• The poem focuses on using the apple gathering as a metaphor for lost love and
sexuality. Students could find all the language associated with loss and love and
produce two contrasting collages using images that they think best suit the poem.
• Students could use one line of the poem to use as the basis for a poem which
conveys a more contemporary sense of loss.
• Students could write and perform the conversations of her neighbours/community
in the poem.
Cousin Kate
This poem reflects the feelings of a woman who has not conformed to society’s
The imaginative interpretation focuses on the third stanza of the poem. It explores
the jealousy that the speaker (the cottage maiden) feels towards her cousin
because she is married to the Lord who once had an affair with the speaker but
was cast aside in favour of her more beautiful cousin.
The use of the mop cleaning up blood and the sarcastic tone of the term ‘Lady
Kate’ reveals the sinister nature of the interpretation. This is a woman scorned and
we see the revenge she has taken on her cousin and the Lord as flashes of their
dead bodies smeared with blood are interspersed with the language of this part of
the poem.
The use of the direct address to the audience shows that the speaker has no
remorse for her actions, and there is a confidence in her manner which
demonstrates that she feels her actions were justified.
The last image, of the dead lovers side by side, is effective as it serves to underline
the betrayal that the speaker feels by both her cousin and her lover. It expresses
the implied emotion and destructive effect of jealousy in a powerful visual way.
• How far was the cottage maiden justified in her actions?
• What other ‘revenge’ could the speaker of the poem be said to have?
• What music would you suggest to accompany this interpretation?
Lesson Ideas
• There are other characters in the poem. The character of the Lord and cousin Kate
could be explored by students creating a montage of images to show the narrative
of their relationship by way of a reply to this interpretation. Students might want to
use animation to represent this.
• Write a script or letter in which the speaker of the poem tells her grown-up child
what happened.
• Create storyboards for films based on the other stanzas in the poem.
“No, Thank You, John”
Rossetti was a devout Christian who twice declined marriage because of her high
Anglican scruples and in later life spent most of her time in seclusion engaged in
charitable work and religious contemplation. In this poem the poet rejects the romantic
attentions of John but appears to show some willingness for a platonic relationship at
the end.
There are two very different interpretations.
The first dramatic interpretation is set in a church. This may reflect the confessional
nature of the poem. The lighting and simple focus on the speaker’s face suggests
a sombre mood and someone who finds it difficult to reject her suitor.
She cannot accept John’s romantic advances because she does not love him. In
this sense she is being compliant with her faith. Perhaps then it is not just John who
is being kept at arm’s length but also sexual gratification.
The use of the candle in the interpretation is interesting. Candles are traditionally
used in the Christian faith during prayer to symbolise that God is with us when we
are speaking to him. So in this sense, Rossetti is showing us that God is with her,
and her rejection of John is the right thing to do in the eyes of God. It is also
significant that both John and God are ‘absent presences’ in the poem, but Rossetti
chooses to be alone with God when she is rejecting John.
The candle could also symbolise the relationship between John and Rossetti - with
the finality of the candle being extinguished at the end of the poem showing the end
of that relationship in its sexual sense, but perhaps as Rossetti suggests, the start
of a new platonic relationship.
It could also represent the emerging consciousness of women in society at that
time when women were beginning to transcend the cultural expectations and
become more independent in terms of their thinking.
The dramatic interpretation shows Rossetti alone and wearing modest outdoor
clothing which could reflect the slightly impatient tone to the poem. We listen to the
internal monologue whilst she is writing the letter and the speaker’s voice shows
awareness that her words will be crushing and appears to take this very seriously.
However, she is not afraid to tackle the subject, and this confidence is seen
throughout the poem, as Rossetti holds the power in the relationship. We can see
this in one way by the use of imperative verbs throughout the poem which are used
to give orders to John.
The second version is a much more contemporary interpretation, using a very
modern way of communication. The female speaker is sharing her thoughts with
‘John’ using a social networking website.
We see the repetition of ‘I love you’ written by the male persona. This could
suggest the idea of a rather persistent ‘stalker’, who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Alternatively, the male does not appear to be sinister in any way and could be
interpreted as being the ‘victim’ in the scenario. The female ‘voice’ seems
determined in her rejection of John and is pursuing the communication until
eventually she slams the laptop shut. This is symbolic of the end of the
relationship, just as the blowing out of the candle is in the first interpretation.
The speaker’s tone of voice is more assertive and impatient, contrasting with the
more thoughtful, reflective tone used in the first version.
The piano music ironically echoes the tapping of the keys on the computer, both
lighthearted in telling the story of a failed romance.
• In version one what is the effect of the setting being in a church?
• In the second version, what is the effect on the viewer of being able to see John?
• Compare the two versions – can you identify how the second version makes the
poem much more relevant to a contemporary audience?
Lesson Ideas
• The relationship between Rossetti and John - this activity can be done
independently or in groups. Students are given a series of cards with statements
about the relationship between Rossetti and John. They have to rank them in the
order that they agree with them. The statements are not as simple as they first
appear to be, and this may lead to some interesting discussion. There is one card
blank for students to write their own views on the relationship to use for this task.
Students now share their ranking and justify the positions of the statements. For
each statement, they need to find a quote which fits from the poem and write that
on a card and place it next to the statement. Students now use another card to
explain the quote. This could be modelled with the whole class. Students now work
independently to produce a response.
Rossetti rejects John
because she does not want
to marry him.
Rossetti thinks that John only
wants her for sex.
Rossetti pities John.
Rossetti is dominant in her
relationship with John.
Rossetti makes fun of John’s
feelings for her.
Rossetti wants John and her
to be friends.
Rossetti is angry at John’s
accusations of her.
Rossetti is tired of having to
tell John that she does not
want him.
Imagine that the female speaker has posted up the poem on her social networking
site page. Write the ‘comments’ from ‘friends’ who may or may not be in agreement
with what she says.
John has written to an agony aunt/uncle about this situation. Write the response,
addressing points from the poem.
These two versions could be shown in preparation for the study of other poems and
students asked to consider what different kinds of interpretations could be made of
them using different settings – past, present or future, setting the action in a
different place such as a playground, different country or universe. Students could
consider props and characterisation as a result and ensure that the words of the
poem are still relevant in the new context.
Again, this poem explores remembrance and uncertainty after loss, finally
contemplating whether it is best to remember after all.
There are two versions of this poem.
The first adaptation focuses on images concerned with nature and the opening
images are of an empty, desolate landscape, suggesting alienation and isolation.
The opening title of ‘Remember’ is on aged paper and suggests something that
happened a while ago.
Images of religion are also introduced and we see the female persona walking
alone through a churchyard, suggesting the loss of a loved one, with close-ups to
the grave of someone only 20 years old.
There is a long shot at the end, suggesting that the subject will remain alone and
cannot ‘forget’ and ‘smile’ as the poem urges.
The second adaptation, showing a couple in love, reflects the sonnet nature of the
poem, as sonnets were the chosen form used by many Victorian poets to celebrate
At the start of the adaptation, the couple are seen holding hands. This could signify
their closeness, and also the fact that this poem is prayer-like, littered with religious
The second part of the adaptation has a different tone and this is shown through
the use of non-diagetic sound. The piano music is reflective and the male persona
is alone. The use of the setting, with snow, could reflect the idea of finality, or
loneliness, or death.
The scene in the graveyard reinforces the idea that this poem focuses on loss.
Loss of a loved one, and loss of their future, symbolised perhaps by the ring the
persona has brought with him to the gravestone.
We hear the last lines of the poem spoken by the female persona, and these again
remind us of the loss of their future. The lines are also comforting, as the speaker
wants her love to move on with his life, in a selfless gesture. We get the sense that
she wants what is best for him and is not afraid to assert that.
The poem begins with a male voice and ends with a female voice speaking
selected lines from the poem, and there is some ambiguity in the narrative which
should provide good opportunity for discussion.
• What narrative do the images used in version one convey?
• What is the significance of the lines chosen in the second adaptation?
• Do the two interpretations show the same ‘story’? How are they different?
Lesson Ideas
• Before studying the poem show the films to students without sound and get them to
write a voiceover for each, narrating the events and feelings. The results may
show a variety of interpretations possible from the viewing. Some could read their
voiceover over the film as it is shown, followed by class discussion of their
interpretation. After studying the poem students could look back at the poem and
see how far their voiceovers reflect what they feel happens in the poem.
• Students could show the difference between Victorian and contemporary attitudes
to love and loss by presenting a modern day version of the poem or writing a song
lyric to a contemporary melody.
• Is it possible to remember with fondness without feeling sad, or should we forget
and move on? In pairs debate the advantages and disadvantages for each.
Prepare a piece of text entitled ‘Dealing with loss’ to be used as a piece of advice in
a radio programme discussing the issue.
William Shakespeare
Sonnet 18
This is one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets depicting a loved one immortalised
through poetry.
The student took her own photographs to accompany her reading of the poem, and
these were put together in Movie Maker.
The first images are those of blossom and spring flowers and a long path bordered
by tall trees. This could reflect the idea of eternity early on, as well as the hope and
promise that a loved one can bring. It also represents the idea that although
blooming flowers are temporary in their beauty, the loved one in the poem will
remain beautiful and temperate in nature, like the photographs.
Some of the other images show the sun described as ‘the eye of heaven’ and the
images are of a sun setting behind some trees, reflecting perhaps the idea of
transient nature of the seasons and time, as opposed to the beloved’s beauty and
The beloved’s ‘eternal summer’ shall not fade precisely because it is embodied in
the sonnet and this is reflected in seeing the words ‘eternal lines’ that the girl in the
film writes.
When the audience first sees the image of the girl they may assume that she is the
subject of the poem, but as the film progresses, it is clear that she is the persona
contemplating her loved one, and this may be an interesting way into discussing
the gender stereotyping of poems and the uncertainty about who is being
addressed in Shakespeare’s sonnets in particular.
Which of the images did you find most effective from the interpretation and why?
What is the effect of the speeding up of the images of the water and how does this
link to the words spoken from the poem at this point?
In this interpretation, who is the speaker of the poem and how is this surprising?
Lesson Ideas
• Prepare your own storyboard for the poem, using more metaphoric imagery where
you can, and also including sound effects.
• Using the negative vocabulary from the poem, write a response from the loved one
showing perhaps that his/her feelings are different to the poet’s. This could be in
the form of a short monologue and presented to the class.
• Students could write their own humorous sonnet after studying the form. They
could make their own comparison, for example, ‘Shall I compare thee to a
….chocolate sundae?’
Contemporary Poetry
Simon Armitage
This poem is a monologue by someone who has committed the murder of a man who
is similar to him except that he appears to have the freedom the poet does not.
This is an innovative interpretation of the poem using contemporary dance.
The dancers are dressed the same and are dancing in unison for much of the
performance. This could reflect the fact that the persona and his victim in the poem
are alike - they are both around the same age, and both hitch lifts. They may even
be the same person.
The dancers are dressed in black, which could represent the serious undertones of
violence displayed in the poem. It also has the effect of blurring the identity of the
The dancers reflect the action in the poem - we see the dancers engaged in
movements representing conflict, and we see pieces where dancers are retreating
from violence or being the perpetrators of violence.
The movements are fluid, very much like the structure of the poem where Armitage
uses enjambment to reflect the sense of an internal monologue of the persona.
The non-diagetic sound reflects the tension of the poem and is at times menacing.
We get the sense from the interpretation that the persona is at times cowardly there is little eye contact with the audience, and the dancers often use subservient
gestures. This could reflect the idea in the poem that the persona’s source of
conflict is his boss but he takes out this frustration on the hitchhiker whose carefree
attitude and values seem to mock him.
• Look again at the movements of the dancers especially in the first 30 seconds of
the dance. What adjectives could you use to describe the movements and how do
they relate to the emotion at the start of the poem?
• How is the idea of violence reflected in the dance?
• Does the dance make you feel any empathy for the speaker in the poem?
Lesson Ideas
• Using the dance as a stimulus, students work in small groups and each focus on a
separate stanza of the poem. They have to present three freeze frame or tableaux
of the key ideas or key phrases in each of the stanzas. Other students could guess
which idea or phrase the tableaux is representing.
• Students could work in groups of three or four and each take a role from one of the
people in the poem (the hitchhiker, the persona, the boss). Each character has to
present their perspective on the events in the poem, using words and phrases from
the poem in their monologue. This could be extended to include other characters
not in the poem, for example the family of the victim.
• Write a day in the life of the speaker of the poem. What is it about his daily life that
may have led up to the events in the poem?
• In pairs, write down questions a psychiatrist might ask the persona in the poem to
get to the bottom of why he acted in the way he did. How far will the psychiatrist
believe that the hitcher could be another side to the psyche of the speaker?
The poem is a dramatic monologue from the point of view of Batman’s sidekick, Robin.
The interpretation shows how he evolves to become more independent and to question
the hero who is ‘Batman’.
This is a dramatic interpretation where students have used the imagery of Batman from
the poem to explore the tension between father and son.
We can see from the opening image of the filmed representation that the poem
focuses on the comic book character of Batman. The symbol is iconic and is
recognisable all over the world.
The character of Robin is introduced and the relationship established between
Batman and Robin is unequal. ‘Robin’ is the dominant voice in the poem, and we
can tell he is unhappy with the distribution of power by the anger in his voice and
the body language displayed when the two are sitting next to each other on the
park bench.
The film adaptation shows how Robin ‘turns a corner’ and becomes empowered
because of the way he perceives he has been treated. We are shown Robin’s
retaliation at the way he has been treated when he attacks Batman. This goes
against the stereotypical view of Batman as the dominant force in the relationship.
We also see how Batman is depicted as weak here.
The status of Batman is questioned as we progress through the film. An important
point in the film is when Robin symbolically removes the mask and then the
costume that links both characters.
We see Batman holding out his hand in a conciliatory gesture but this is rejected by
Robin who in the last section of the film unleashes his anger both in the tone of his
voice and his violence towards Batman.
At the end of the film, Robin symbolically hands his costume to the cowering
Batman. This act could signify the end of our stereotypical views of that
relationship, and of Batman’s ability to save the universe, using Robin as nothing
more than a sidekick. This poem is Robin’s opportunity to have a voice and for
once, Batman is silenced and Robin is not subservient.
• What does the Batman symbol make you think of? What words and phrases do you
associate with this image?
• Why is Robin so angry in this interpretation?
• By the end of the film ‘Robin’ has gradually taken off his costume – how does this
link to the words in the poem?
Lesson ideas
• Back-to-back hotseating. Students are sat back-to-back - one is Robin and one is
Batman. ‘Robin’ reads the poem, one line at a time in a tone of voice that the
students think best suits Robin’s feelings towards Batman. Batman is then given
the opportunity to respond by saying one line back to Robin. By providing Batman
with a voice in this way, students will learn more about Armitage’s theme of hero
• Produce a two-page comic depicting the events of the poem, using language from
the poem and appropriate comic book layout.
• Explore the unusual use of half-rhyme at the end of each line of the poem – how
does this affect the tone and pace during reading? Students could mimic this use of
half-rhyme in their own poem about a time they felt empowered.
Mother, any distance greater than a single span
This is a poem that explores the relationship between mother and child and the child’s
quest for independence over time.
A range of teaching approaches resulted in a number of creative responses to this
The first interpretation makes use of the agony aunt/chat show genre to explore the
theme of mother/child relationships which dominates the poem. The performance
is interspersed with a reading of the poem. This format works because Armitage is
focusing in this poem on a universal theme. The characters of mother and son are
shown to have a positive relationship, and keen to overcome the source of conflict
which is the son’s desire to break free from his mother’s ‘anchor’ and leave home
permanently. The key words ‘anchor’ and ‘kite’ are repeated as these are
metaphors for the emotional connection and indeed tension between the two.
The paired performance effectively reflects the different perspectives of mother and
child, encouraging a dual interpretation of the poem.
The visual interpretation of the poem uses images associated with key words from
the poem. It is interesting that the tape measure is a key image here. This could
represent the two characters working together and a source of conflict. It could also
be viewed as a metaphor for time. Time is running out for the mother to have any
control over her child, and she understands his need to want to be independent.
There are images too of freedom here, of the son at the front of the picture and the
mother in the distance. The sub-text is again of the child wanting his independence,
and the mother reluctant to give up her son in that way.
It is interesting that the last image is of the two ‘holding on’ and we get the sense
that they both still need each other, that their relationship is solid and important. In
this sense, the poem is a tribute to mothers who love their children and feel a sense
of regret when their children take their freedom.
• What do you learn about the mother and child relationship during the ‘Zac Attack
• Think about the images which are used in the visual representation of the poem.
What interpretations of the phrases and therefore the images could be offered?
• Gather all the phrases and visual interpretations of freedom and restriction seen in
the films. Which theme is seen as dominant and why is this? Do you agree?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could work in pairs, one taking the role of the mother and one taking the
role of the child in the poem. The two characters each read the lines from the poem
and in role provide another line which demonstrates the internal monologue of the
characters so we get a sense of the two viewpoints explored.
• Prepare a performance of a conversation between the mother in the poem and a
friend or close relative about the subject. Alternatively, prepare a performance of a
conversation between the child and a friend or sibling of similar age.
Gillian Clarke
Philip Monks, writer, and Malcolm McGivan, English specialist, worked with year 9
students to produce comics and original poetry based around Gillian Clarke’s poems.
Cold Knap Lake
The poem focuses on an incident from the poet’s childhood. Cold Knap Lake is an
artificial lake in a large park in Glamorgan, South Wales.
Students were asked to produce a comic focusing on possible events before or after
the events in the poem, using the program Comic Life.
The use of this genre is effective as we are shown the dramatic background to the
poem and the comics reflect on the possible relationships between the characters.
All the interpretations suggest tension between the child and carer, picking up on
the words ‘thrashed her’ and ‘poor man’s daughter’.
The conflict in the relationship is shown through facial gestures and use of stylised
violence in the comic book; even down to the dramatic typeface of words such as
‘splash’. We, the reader, focus on the treatment of the child and her isolation from
the people who should be taking care of her.
This is also a poem which focuses on the ways that we recall the past, as this
poem is in part autobiographical. It is interesting therefore how each of the graphic
interpretations differ slightly, just as our ability to remember is clouded by our
perspective on events and the ageing process. The same images however keep
appearing; the water, the child, the conflict in her relationships with her parents and
• Water is seen in all the representations of the poem. What could the water stand
• How is the child portrayed in the comic book representations?
• How do the comics interpret the ‘poor house’ the child lives in?
Lesson Ideas
• In order to understand the tensions between the characters in the poem, students
could write and perform a news report about the girl’s accident in the lake. Students
take on the roles of parent (or step-parent), child and any other ‘witnesses’. Using
appropriate phrases from the poem, they give their account of the event. There
could also be a commentary from a journalist to go alongside this.
• Prepare readings of the poem in the following ways:
Matter of fact – as if reporting an everyday event
Wistful, nostalgic, remembering the past and what has gone
In a storytelling tone, as if retelling an old fairy story
Which reflects the content of the poem best in your view? Identify words and
phrases which suit the different ways of reading the poem aloud best.
• With a partner, share a memory from when you were young. The partner should
ask detailed questions about it. How difficult is it to remember an event from when
you were young? Can you write your own poem using snatches of your memory?
Miracle on St. David’s Day
The poem focuses on a life changing event. The persona is at a mental health hospital,
reading poetry when a man who has not spoken for years, gets up and recites
Wordsworth’s The Daffodils.
The interpretation of this poem focuses on the choices a poet makes when
composing a syllabic poem like Clarke’s.
Students share their syllabic poems which focus on one of the viewpoints of one of
the characters in the poem.
Later in the interpretation, students act out their poems to their peers.
• What do you learn from the drafting process modelled by writer Philip Monks?
• The title of the poem is Miracle on St David’s Day. Think about the other people
who witnessed this event and provide alternative titles for the poem.
• What is the effect of the echoing voice in the reading of the students’ syllabic
Lesson Ideas
• Before reading the poem, give students the first lines of each stanza. They have to
think about the structure and order of the poem and place the lines in the order that
they think makes sense. They then ‘tell the story’ in the poem.
• Students take each stanza and visually represent the themes in that stanza. They
may want to focus on ‘re-awakening, epiphany, the treatment of mental illness’ etc.
• A poetry-slam, in which two or more groups present/read the two poems, The
Daffodils and Miracle on St David’s Day, and make up a case for their poem being
the best use of language/structure/rhyme etc in a competitive manner.
Wendy Cope
Tich Miller
This poem focuses on the way children at school are treated by others if they do not ‘fit
The student took photographs and was filmed, reading the poem as part voiceover,
part direct-to-camera.
The dramatic interpretation combines some arresting images and words from the
poem, as well as the poem read in a melancholy tone to suit the theme.
The first image is of the school sports field - this coincides with the humiliating
experience of picking teams that the speaker of the poem and ‘Tich’ had to endure.
It is interesting how this is closely followed by the image of the ‘wire-mesh fence’
which could represent a cage/prison - a situation that these two girls could not
escape from.
Other images are of the bird, to represent the freedom that they want, both from the
experience, but also from the reasons why they are never picked earlier.
The ending of the poem, with the speaker talking directly to the audience, highlights
the separation of the line from the other regular 3 line stanzas so that we the
reader, focus on this line even more, making the content more shocking.
• Why did the student choose to use the text of the word ‘unselected’ in the film?
• Do you think the mix of images, text and voiceover works in this interpretation?
Why? Why not?
• What is the effect of speaking the final line directly to the camera?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could identify all the language associated with exclusion in the poem.
They could make a collage using the language and some appropriate images to go
with the words and phrases they have chosen. Students can go on to present
these to the class.
• The poem provides opportunities for students to explore the character of Tich, the
speaker in the poem and the other ‘absent presence’ characters such as the
teacher and other students. Hot-seating could be used as a technique to explore
how the characters felt about this exclusion, using phrases from the poem to
support the points of view.
• Prepare an interview with the speaker of the poem, ten years later. Ask her to
discuss her school life and what she is doing now.
Carol-Ann Duffy
Before You Were Mine
This is a poem about a mother’s sacrifice and the carefree life she led before the birth
of her child.
After studying the poem students produced a ‘polka-dot’ dress referred to in the poem
as the basis for considering the imagery and themes of the poem.
This poem is a tribute to the persona’s mother. The interpretation uses a dress to
represent some of the salient themes in the poem.
The dress represents youthful promise and the life that her mother had before any
domestic duties took away her freedom.
Perhaps the use of clouds as a backdrop to the images could symbolise the
dreams that the persona’s mother had before she had children.
We see images of sun, shoes, high heels and dancing, which represent optimism
and a time before the teenager in the poem became the mother of the poet.
It is interesting that the image of eyes is featured repeatedly on the dress. This
refers to the glitter ball in the poem, and how the persona is looking afresh at her
mother. It could also refer to the way the past is ‘looking’ at her in the poem and
the future is looking at her as a mother, re-viewing and re-framing. Again we see in
this way how the poem links the past with the present and the future.
• What is the significance of the many images of eyes on the dress?
• What images of you at the age of your parents would you like to see?
• Describe the relationship between the mother and persona as seen in the
interpretation of the poem.
Lesson ideas
• Students could create/design their own set of clothing focusing on their own
mothers or a person they are close to, embellishing them with images which reflect
this person at the students’ age or the age they are now.
• Students could think about the mother’s perspective on her daughter and interpret
the poem from this point of view. They could use the phrases from the poem to
create two dramatic monologues. One written from the mother’s past (perhaps
entitled ‘Before I was yours’) and one from the present describing her life and how
her daughter shaped her values, ideas etc. Students could present these to the
• Students could explore the past of an older family member or friend by speaking
with them or about them with other family members. They could gather
photographs and other articles to build a picture of what their past life was like and
present it to the class (as the Individual contribution for S&L) or write their own
poem in the style of Duffy.
Who Loves You
This poem is a contemplation of a loved one when absent from the speaker of the
poem, voicing anxiety over his/her safety.
These two interpretations are effective explorations of some of the key themes in the
poem using a combination of dramatic techniques.
The use of black cloth throughout the film represents the idea of death and being
separated from those we love. The cloth is used frequently to reveal a barrier;
between life and death, between us and nature and us and our loved ones.
The use of mime is also effective. The students became physical barriers to
reinforce the idea of alienation and loss.
Voice is used to repeat key lines, notably “Safety, safely, safe home”. This acts as
a chorus almost and to also give a rhythm to the drama, a refrain to represent the
gravity of some of the messages.
The lack of any other props reflects the serious tone of the poem. We are invited to
think of the messages from a personal perspective.
• What ‘mystical machines’ are presented, and can you think of other examples?
• Which scene did you find most powerful in the films and why?
• What messages did the actors in the film want us to take from the poem?
Lesson ideas
• Students could write a group poem, punctuated by the words ‘Safety, safely, safe
home’. Hand out slips of paper with the words ‘Safely, safe home’ and pairs could
write two lines which reflect a concern for what might happen to a loved one.
These could be read out to the class to form one poem.
• For each line of the poem, write the response from the imagined ‘loved one’.
• Write an email to the speaker of the poem from a location of your choice,
reassuring the persona in the poem and persuading him/her that you are safe and
taking appropriate precautions.
Seamus Heaney
Heaney admires his father and grandfather who dig for peat; he cannot match them but
reflects that perhaps his pen might be just as powerful as it can dig into the past and
can express his admiration for them, as well as having a potential to do something
useful in a different way.
This is an effective interpretation focusing on the political climate of Ireland. Heaney
was from Belfast and had to move from the North because his family were involved in
the troubles, but he never wrote directly about them and in this sense is never seen as
a political writer.
The speaker at the start of the interpretation repeats the seminal line from the
poem ‘the squat pen rests…like a gun’. The performance could represent Heaney
showing the importance of the written word to overcome conflict. The use of the
spotlight reinforces the seriousness of the message, the idea of being ‘in the
spotlight’, in court, or under interrogation
The interpretation explores the two sides of this conflict with students as Catholic
and Protestant protestors. It is interesting how the first speaker takes an active role
in this, as Heaney described the troubles as a spiral of tribal revenge in his
autobiography, and this is reflected during the protest scene.
The change of formality for the House of Lords’ scene works well and again shows
another perspective on the poem. We notice the formal language used which links
to the idea in the poem of tradition, and the need to break from the expectations
others have of us.
The scene in which the speaker is arrested, and indeed the final scene, reinforces
Heaney’s idea in the poem of the importance of the written word. The line from the
opening scene is repeated by the speaker and the written word is offered as an
alternative to conflict and to the political process which at the time was looking
We also return to Heaney at the end of the interpretation because like most of
Heaney’s work, this is an autobiographical poem. He is ‘digging’ for words, in the
same way that his father, and indeed generations of his family ‘dug’ and worked the
land in the traditional sense, for a living. It is this tradition that we see threatened by
the political climate perhaps, juxtaposed with changes in society and different
working opportunities.
• Look again at the presentation – how is light used to reflect the tone of the poem?
• What is the effect of the persona addressing the audience directly?
• Which words in the poem have provoked this politically charged response to the
Lesson Ideas
• Students could role play the dialogue between Heaney and his father after his
father has read the poem, focusing on any tension between Heaney wanting to
please his father but having to turn his back on the farming life to write.
• In groups prepare a mime in which father and son show their work, with other
characters around them, demonstrating the differences between past and present.
• Research Heaney’s career and background and present as a website for an
audience of 11-16 year olds.
Benjamin Zephaniah
What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us
This poem is about the racist murder of Elton teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was
stabbed to death whilst waiting for a bus in 1993. Five suspects were arrested but
never convicted which led to the Metropolitan Police being described as ‘institutionally
racist’ by Sir William Macpherson who led an inquiry into the case in 1999. Sir Paul
Condon was the Police Commissioner at the time.
Students produced this resource over three lessons, focusing on the emotions of the
poem in the first and recording it, producing images based around the poem in the
second and final editing with Movie Maker in the third lesson.
The interpretation begins with the phrase ‘We know who the killers are’ written in
the style of a ransom note and spoken by a number of speakers - perhaps to
represent a united voice, the voice of the public maybe. This stark image and
phrase is repeated throughout the poem, and left with us at the end of the poem.
We are thus prompted to ask ourselves if the killers are known - why are they not
The narrative of the poem is presented using cut-out paper figures in black. The
first scene representing the murder at the bus stop sees the arrested men looming
larger over the victim. The use of the paper figures showing no features could
reflect the idea that the evidence presented in the case was indisputable according
to the poet. It could also be the reminder of the culpability we as a society should
take for his death - the paper figures could represent all of us.
The broken heart is a striking and universal image to reflect the feelings of the
friends and family of Stephen Lawrence, but also the idea of a fractured society that
allows this to happen.
There are two roads presented in the poem and they have been placed next to
each other - ‘slavery’ and ‘liberty’ reflecting the idea that society has the choice of
which road to take, or perhaps both are interconnected and that elements of both
exist in society and there is still progress to be made.
One of the most arresting images used in the poem is that of the Union Jack
covering the body of a teenager. The screwing up of the paper reflects perhaps the
way that Stephen Lawrence was let down by the British justice system and the
opportunities to convict his killers thrown away. It also suggests the tragedy of a
young life taken and ‘thrown away’ unnecessarily.
The juxtaposition of the ‘Tellytubby’ world and ‘reality’ is represented by the light
and dark collages towards the end of the interpretation, suggesting the police are
removed from reality and do not know what is obvious to ordinary people.
• What has Stephen Lawrence taught us?
• Which image do you find most effective and why?
• What does the tone of voice of the readers indicate to us about the attitude of the
poet in this poem?
Lesson Ideas
• Students could present their ‘docu-movie’ of research into the Stephen Lawrence
case, with commentary. Students could include interviews of their parents, teachers
etc, what they remember about the case and how the case affected them.
Students could make their own placards for a demonstration against racism and for
justice, using words from the poem and their research into the actual events. They
could develop this into their own ‘chant’ which could be repeated during the
Organise the press conference, with the press asking questions of Stephen
Lawrence’s family, Sir Paul Condon etc.
Further Support
For further information on OCR’s English qualifications please visit:
For more information on using poets and writers in schools please visit:
Julie Boden
Poet in residence, Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Audio-visual interpretations of poems are also available on a number of websites,
OCR would like to acknowledge and thank the following contributors:
Julie Boden
Poet in residence, Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Jonathan Davidson
Chief Executive, Writing West Midlands
Philip Monks
Malcolm McGivan
English Specialist
OCR would also like to acknowledge and thank the following centres, their
students and staff:
Lindsay Mason
Bournville School & Sixth Form College, Birmingham
Steff Hutchinson
Andy Chaplin
Caludon Castle School, Coventry
Greg Hodgson
Chalfonts Community College, Gerrards Cross, Bucks
Stephen Dawkins
Coventry School of Art & Design, Coventry University
Richard Larkin
Catherine McAvan
Amer Hussain
Alex Marrion
Ashley Roberts
John Willmott School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Kenilworth School & Sports College, Warwickshire
Liz Plumpton
Kingsbury School & Sports College, Birmingham
Paul Clark
Helena Osborne
Matravers School, Bath
Claire Inns
Saint Martin’s School, Solihull, West Midlands
Rachel Scofield
St Alban’s Academy, Birmingham
Copyright Acknowledgements
Simon Armitage:
‘Kid’ from Kid (Faber, 1992)
‘The Hitcher’ and ‘Mother any Distance Greater than a Single Span’ from Book of
Matches (Faber, 1993)
Reproduced by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd
Gillian Clarke:
‘Cold Knap Lake’ and ‘Miracle on St David’s Day’ from Collected Poems (Carcanet,
Reproduced by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd
Wendy Cope:
‘Tich Miller’ from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber, 1986)
Reproduced by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd
Carol-Ann Duffy:
‘Who Loves You’ from The Other Country (Anvil, 1990)
‘Before You Were Mine’ from Mean Time (Anvil, 1993)
Reproduced by permission of Anvil Press Poetry and
Copyright © Carol Ann Duffy by kind permission of the author c/o Rogers Coleridge &
White Ltd, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN
Seamus Heaney:
‘Digging’ from Death of a Naturalist (Faber, 1966)
Reproduced by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd
Benjamin Zephaniah:
‘What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us’ from Too Black Too Strong (Bloodaxe, 2003)
Reproduced by permission of Bloodaxe Books
Poetry in Schools, A survey of practice, 2006/07 Ofsted, Alexandra House, 33
Kingsway, London WC2B 6SE
Key Phrases
Choose three lines or phrases from the poem you have studied, and place them on the
diagram, choosing the one that engages you the most in the middle, and the others in
order of preference.
For each line or phrase you have chosen, write your reasons for that choice next to the
line. You may like to present your diagram to other students in your group.
Exploring viewpoints in the poems
Choose a poem which involves two or more characters.
Using the images below, choose lines from the poem which reflect the different voices.
The phrase or line which reflects the dominant voice should be written in the biggest
speech bubble, and the other voices in the others depending on their significance.
Present your speech bubbles to the class.
Thinking about Performance
Performing a poem will help you to explore the poem and its effect.
The cards below have one stage direction on them. Working in pairs, decide which
ones would be relevant and for which lines in a presentation of your chosen poem.
Some have been left blank for you to add your own. Explain the reasons for your
Stand at the Talking
Focusing on Kneeling
front of the
directly to
one member
the audience of the
Using a
quiet voice
Smiling to
Hands in a
the audience praying
Pacing the
Exploring the Cultural/Historical Context of the Poem.
From your reading of the poem, think about what it shows of the culture in which it was
Complete the grid below thinking about the research you need to complete to help you
understand the poem more.
What do I know already?
What questions do I have
about the historical context?
Which lines/phrases from the
poem will I explore during my
Exploring Themes
Using a Venn diagram, select three poems you have studied and think about the
What connections can you make between themes/content/use of
language/structure/rhyme? Which lines from the poems reveal similar themes?
Introduction to Poetry Study Day
More and more schools have off-timetable days which can be used to introduce or
focus on particular aspects of the curriculum. Some of the teaching strategies
demonstrated in the DVD would lend themselves particularly to these enrichment and
cross-curricular opportunities.
The following is a suggested Study Day plan for introducing poetry combined with ICT
to produce a short movie on a poem using Movie Maker or iMovie. It could be adapted
to incorporate drama or dance outcomes, the use of other software such as Comic Life
and so on.
Learning Objectives
To understand some of the reasons why poetry is studied
To develop a personal response to a poem and consider different interpretations
To explore how meaning is made through words and images by producing a short
film based around a poem
Poetry books, OCR poetry anthology Reflections
(Invite learners to bring in their own poetry books in advance of the day)
Projector and screen with sound
Small whiteboards and pens, paper, card and any other art materials available
Digital cameras (1 per group ideally)
PCs with Movie Maker, iMovie or Powerpoint, microphone
Additional teacher support/technical support with knowledge of the software
An additional quiet room for recording the poems if possible
Seat learners in groups of 5/6.
Sample Study Day Programme
Ask students to bring in their own
favourite poems/book of poems. In
groups they can share their favourites or
browse through the books available as
they arrive/register.
Follow the lesson plan on Why Study
Poetry? (Page 6)
Show any of the relevant video poems on
the Virtual Visions DVD, eg Hardy’s
‘Drummer Hodge’, Zephaniah’s ‘What
Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us’ or
Chaucer’s ‘Prologue to the Canterbury
Tales’ to demonstrate the purpose of the
day. Introduce a poet and poem of your
choice, using cloze, sequencing,
highlighting etc to enable learners to
explore the poem.
Suggested break
Discuss the tone and mood of the poem
and aspects of reading a poem to
consider pace, intonation, volume,
emotion etc. Groups can then prepare
and perform a reading of the poem, to be
recorded using Movie Maker, iMovie or
other audio software such as Audacity.
Suggested lunch
In groups learners create images which
reflect/interpret lines of the poem, using
any art materials available, from simple
drawings/paintings to collages and other
art forms that may be accessible to them.
Each image should be photographed with
the image closely contained within the
frame. If viable, learners could take
photographs around school, or
photograph their own freeze frames etc.,
or work with film if available.
Groups work together to import their
material onto Movie Maker or iMovie, and
edit their poetry readings and images
together, selecting a musical backing
track and including titles and credits etc.
The final movies can be shown and the
different interpretations discussed.
Poetry books, Reflections
Virtual Visions DVD
Virtual Visions DVD,
Reflections anthologies
Selected poetry activities
Microphone for recording
onto software on PC
Art materials, cameras
PCs with software
Alternative approaches: The poem could be divided up into sections and each group
allocated a section to focus on, or each group could do a different poem.
General qualifications
Telephone 01223 553998
Facsimile 01223 552627
Email [email protected]
For staff training purposes and as part of our quality assurance programme your call may be recorded or monitored.
© OCR 2010 Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England.
Registered office 1 Hills Road, Cambridge CB1 2EU. Registered company number 3484466. OCR is an exempt charity.
OCR customer contact centre
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF