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Working with Poetry

Beth Kemp | Wednesday June 15, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Poetry, Writing, Poetry Analysis, Teaching Ideas & Skills Development

Many specifications require students to work with poetry, whether that’s developing familiarity with particular works of poetry, responding effectively to unseen poems, or (often) both.  Simply ‘going through’ a poem in class is not possible for every text students will need to work with during the course.  Sometimes a particular approach is the obvious one to take because of the demands of the specification, but often a poem simply needs to be read and its meaning discussed.  This collection includes ways of introducing a poem that students haven’t read beforehand; ways of introducing a whole poetry text or a poet’s work; ways of teasing a bit more out of a poem in class; and tasks that will support students in reading a poem ahead of a lesson.

Introducing a poem in a lesson

De-contextualising the text

Resources required:

  • Deconstructed poem(s)

This is particularly effective with students who are hesitant with poetry.

  • Students are presented with a poem that has been deconstructed in order to provide them with only the words.  This can be achieved by:
  • Pasting the poem into http://www.wordle.net.  This presents the text graphically, according to each word’s frequency in the text (the more often it’s used, the bigger it will be in the wordle).  It is generally by default set to “ignore common words in English? so that the function words are excluded and you see only the lexical words.  This is especially effective for poems with a strong extended metaphor or semantic field that is unrelated to the poem’s ‘real’ theme or message (Plath’s Daddy is fantastic like this – it looks like it must be a poem about WWII).
  • Organising the entire poem alphabetically.  This can be achieved using the ‘find and replace’ function in Word to replace all spaces with paragraph breaks (^p), followed by sorting A-Z.  This way also shows each instance of a word more explicitly than wordle, really emphasising any repetition...

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