A selection of Teachit's poetry resources
'On My First Sonne''On My First Sonne' PowerPoint offers a very good introduction to both the language and the themes of the poem. It would probably be best used after students had time to consider the poem themselves and perhaps to have carried out a small amount of research. For example: in pairs look at the first four lines, the second four lines and the final four lines. Other pairs could consider the gist of each of the quartets. They will then be in a better position to answer some of the questions posed by the PowerPoint, and to check whether their linguistic researches or guesses were correct.
'My Last Duchess'
Reading 'My Last Duchess'
Student question sheet.
Original Teachit resource.
Tweaked resources. These grids can be completed as Word documents, or printed out and filled in by hand.
Grid 1 lists some of the devices used in the poem and asks students to provide examples and deductions. The third column is deliberately labelled ‘So What?’ to make it very clear that there is no point in just labelling something for the sake of it.
Students should feel free to add other rows if they wish – and to leave a blank in the final column if they think there is nothing of significance to be drawn from that item.
Grid 2 gives some examples but leaves the ‘So What’ column blank. Students would be expected to add other examples.
Grid 3 is a sample grid which might be of use to you as teacher.
Each grid has a final ‘Conclusions’ space which is really a general ‘So what?’ (If we can’t come to some overall conclusions as a result of all this table-filling, what is the point?)
Variations might include providing the examples (and possibly the ‘So what?’ entries) in a separate document and asking students to copy and paste them into the right places – and then add to them.
Carol Ann Duffy
Poems from the current AQA A anthology
What do you remember? is a useful little revision checklist for students - I like the instruction to 'suggest a new title for each of the poems'. That could lead to an interesting discussion. Students could try the grid without using notes or the anthology, collect in the results and then have ten minutes to check whether they were right. In each case the Teachit timer would be useful.
Key poems. Quiz is a similar, slightly more detailed, revision quiz, which could also be arranged in the form of a grid. Again, I would use the timer and get students to check their answers themselves.
Other Carol Ann Duffy poems
These resources (mainly on Duffy’s poems featured in the previous AQA Anthology) are still available and still useful for background work on poetry in general and Duffy in particular. Some would be suitable for KS3 work or preparation for AS level.
I’d recommend 'In Mrs Tilscher’s Class', 'Valentine' and 'Stealing', in particular.
'In Mrs Tilscher's class'
A general worksheet for students who have read and discussed the poem already.
If you wish to concentrate on the senses (as suggested in the worksheet above) might be a more direct (not to say in your face) way for your students to approach the poem. Why not remove the title and ask students to fill in some memories from their own primary schools?
'In Mrs Tilscher's Class' - activities and questions contains some interesting suggestions for activities before reading the poem. You might use the senses sheet above for the A)1 activity, collecting individual responses first before moving on to pair-work. I would not request 'a poem' for A)3 but simply a very short description 'which does not have to be written in full sentences'.
'In Mrs Tilscher's Class' commentary provides a useful briefing for teachers on the main themes of the poem. For students, I offer a tweaked version with some drop-down choices for them to think about.
'Valentine' notes and activities 1, 'Valentine' notes and activities 2 and 'Valentine' notes and activities 3 present not three but four tasks based on the poem, providing a range of activities. Revise 'Valentine' gives comprehensive notes on the poem which, again, are best used as the basis for teaching than for duplicating and handing to students. If the latter approach is taken, they are likely to try to memorise the points rather than understand them.
Central to the poem, as both of the above point out, is the image of the onion. Why not ask students to take another object not usually associated with love or Valentine’s Day and see if they can create connections with the subject? For example, a sunflower, a goldfish, a bicycle, cardboard box.
A sunflower – turns to face the sun, like one lover’s face to another; grows swiftly like infatuation; is subject to the rain and wind of misfortune; will fade unless receiving light and water of the other’s love.
A goldfish – is trapped inside its tank like a heart trapped inside a body; longs to reach out to you as you look through the glass; is beautiful but fragile; is restless like the lover waiting for his/her love.
A bicycle – is propelled by my muscles powered by my heart, as my love is powered by my heart; has wheels that just go round and round as do my thoughts around the image of you; has brakes which bring me up short – as when I meet you and I’m suddenly struck dumb…
You see – you can do it with anything! Now try the cardboard box.
You could use any of the above with the class in a brainstorming session before giving them a list of half a dozen items to try themselves. What they jot down will not comprise a poem – but could well be the first draft of one, if you wish to follow that up.
You could, of course, link this to 'My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun'.
The worksheet 'Stealing' commentary 1 is an extended version of commentary 2 with a ‘things to do’ section at the end and worth a look.
'Stealing' would make a good poem with which to do some text-mapping and/or a rehearsed reading. The poem is presented as a dramatic monologue (like 'My Last Duchess') spoken by a young thief who is being questioned. Who is doing the questioning – it seems unlikely that it’s the police. A social worker or probation officer? However, the ‘voice’ of the youth seems to vary between what such a person might really say and some more reflective thoughts. For example ‘He looked magnificent; a tall, white mute / beneath the winter moon. I wanted him, a mate with a mind as cold as the slice of ice / within my own brain’ seems a most unlikely statement from this character.
Students could use marker pens to pick out the parts they think are the most and least likely to be spoken by him; views could then be collected and the poem marked up using the IWB. (Does the writer succeed in portraying the mind of this character? Is the language convincing (he doesn’t swear at all!)?
A writing activity suggests itself: taking on the persona of a character like this and writing a short personal statement or, of course, writing the thoughts or words of the social worker (or any other of the characters suggested in 'Stealing' speaking and listening activity).
A reading based on this would attempt to bring out the two sides of the character, perhaps using two or three voices.
Should I feel sorry for this kid? Look at him.
Lank, greasy hair and spotty chin. He can’t stop
tapping his foot. Nervous. Not nervous of me.
Doesn’t give a damn about me. Why should he?
Just nervy - all the time. Desperate for a fag, probably.
Could offer him one if I hadn’t just given up.
No smoking in here, of course. What?
Nicking a snowman? Maybe he is crazy.
Maybe he needs to see a shrink. Not that he’d go.
Can you imagine it – it would be like something out of Monty Python.
Sorry, you were saying – you put it back together?
'Sellling Manhattan' provides very useful notes / explanations for the teacher. The language would be quite difficult for many students. The opinions / deductions here would be better teased out from students rather than presented to them.
'Shooting Stars' gives more accessible notes for students. Again, best used as an aide memoire for you, the teacher, as you work through the poem with the students.
'War Photographer' - commentary See my notes on 'Selling Manhattan'.
The simple layout of 'War Photographer' - activity belies the sophistication of the questions, which would be quite difficult for most students. Perhaps the questions could be tackled in discussion before students go on to try writing their own answers.
'The Good Teachers', 'Boy', 'Miles Away'
Carol Ann Duffy questions provides helpful background notes for teachers or students (but see my note to ‘Selling Manhattan’ above).
Carol Ann Duffy’s Selected Poems - Quiz. This is a real quiz! This could be quite fun if used as a class activity with teams, perhaps. Given out as a worksheet it seems a rather daunting test-paper!
I would suggest giving out/showing a version of the quiz with only the first one or two questions in each section visible. Then ask students to prepare as many questions as they can for each of the sections.
Writing questions usually gets more thinking done than answering them.