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A Guide to Teaching Plath’s Ariel for ELLA4

Beth Kemp | Thursday January 27, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Poetry, Plath, Ariel, AQA A Level, AQA A Level English Language & Literature A, ELLA4

Associated Resources

  • A Guide to Teaching Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings for ELLA4
  • A Guide to Teaching Duffy’s Mean Time for ELLA4
  • Lang Lit A2 New Coursework Scheme 2011-12.doc
  • Lang Lit A2 Possible Coursework Titles 2011-12.doc

This guide is to support the teaching of Plath’s Ariel, together with Duffy’s Mean Time and Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings for ELLA4.

The unit title is “Comparative Analysis through Independent Study?, so students are expected to do some of the work for themselves.

Thus, in the scheme accompanying this guide, the students are introduced to the three poets through class teaching, and are then provided with possible themes for comparison and advice on possible poems illustrating those themes, most of which will have been covered in whole class teaching.

At that point, small group and paired work will be going on in lessons while students consult individually over their plans for their coursework.

Given that comparing these writers makes some themes impossible or inappropriate, there is no need to teach the whole text, or to prepare the remaining poems in any depth.

This guide is to clarify some issues specific to the teaching of Plath, and to provide some support with individual poems, indicating:

  • Whether the poem is included in the scheme of work, listed on the student ‘titles’ handout, or possibly of interest for an additional title (for more able/interested students)
  • Broad message or ‘story’ of the poem and/or common interpretations
  • References that help with understanding
  • Links to Duffy and/or Larkin
  • Key linguistic and literary features worth highlighting to students

(Note that detail is only provided for poems likely to be relevant for comparison with Duffy/Larkin)

Key Issues

Ariel is of course a challenging text for many reasons, and teaching Plath to sixth formers is not an uncomplicated matter.  There are those who feel that she is an inappropriate role model for this age group, given her...


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