I always find that trying to get pupils to analyse text, particularly poetry, is a tedious battle. It is even more difficult when you teach pupils that are not as academically geared and not as confident as others.
Teaching poetry and approaching the subject of poetry is generally met with groans, and moans. So how in the world do you get pupils to analyse the language used within poetry?
Today, I taught a lesson on sonnets, focusing on sonnet 130. There were two things I wanted the pupils to have achieved by the end of the lesson; I wanted them to understand the structure of a sonnet (pretty straight forward) and also the meaning of the sonnet (not as simple).
The last thing I wanted to do was tell the pupils the meaning of every single word. It’s boring and they achieve nothing. I recently went to a CPD session and picked up this simple and effective way for pupils to analyse language by focusing on individual words. It goes like this:
Take some positive/negative/key words from the poem you wish to study without showing the pupils the poem:
Cut them out, split your students into groups of three or four and give each group one or two words. In each group there must be 1 scribe and 1 reporter.
Give them the following handout (or ask the scribe to write it down to save on paper)
They must fill out the handout based on the word that their group has been given.
and a completed one:
Once each group has completed this task, the reporter from each table must report their answers to the class, reading it exactly as is on their sheet.
From this you can keep a tally of positive and negative words and try and gauge the tone/mood of the piece. Pupils can then try and figure out how these words might be linked and what kind of poem they could be studying.
When the pupils then see the poem, the language appears less daunting because they have an idea of inferred/suggested meanings.
This can also be adapted and used for prose, or pretty much anything relating to language. I recently used this exercise to analyse A Christmas Carol and it resulted in the pupils producing a much more precise analysis of the language used to describe the character of Scrooge.
This can be changed, stretched, lengthened, shortened, used as a starter, main or plenary or used as starter and referred to during plenary in order to see has the suggested meaning changed. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.
Pretty simple but very, very effective!