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English - Rage against machines

What it's all about

Why do poets use weird techniques like personification? It is not just writers like Shakespeare and Keats, writes Catherine Paver. We say things like "This photocopier hates me" and "My mobile phone has just died".

Get your class to write down as many examples as possible. Then look at how personification is used in advertising to sell machines. The Hotpoint Aquarius is an "intelligent washing machine" and a "gallant saviour" that will come to your "rescue". Reviews on the Top Gear website call one car "civilised" and praise another's "rational brilliance".

Pupils can design their own adverts, using personification to sell a machine of their choice. Get them to read each other's adverts, and choose another pupil's product to write about. They can then write an email to a friend, complaining that the machine in the advert does not work. This time they must use personification to express their frustration. They should end up with two different texts about the same machine - one might feature a computer that is "a knight in shining armour", while the other says it's "a demon who's ruined my life".

After they have used personification to rage against their machines, they can slip more easily into the richly figurative, passionate language of Shakespeare.

What else?

Study William Blake's personification in the poem Ah! Sunflower with a PowerPoint presentation from rec208. bit.lyTalkingsunflowers

Pupils write poems about a sleepy house or an angry sea in fairykitty's exercises. bit.lysleepyhousepoems

Be a literary Sherlock Holmes and find personification in prose with Miss R `s lively activity based on The Hound of the Baskervilles. bit.lyFindpersonification.

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