Reading poetry tends to be a private affair - particularly the lyric verse which makes up most of the poems on these two interactive CD-Roms. You need time to allow the words to work and to make connections with what you already know and feel. But reaching an understanding of a poem is often the result of investigation of text and context, and debate about the text. Mike Harrison's compilations allow the student to do both.
These CD-Roms, which are designed to be used either individually or networked, with the facility for teachers to write tasks for the students on their own or as a class, lead students through attractively presented material to consolidate their understanding of language, verse-forms and the historical context. They also invite them to explore the biographies of the poets, the ways in which the poems were composed, and what was happening in other arts at the time. Cross-curricular links with art and history will also prove invaluable.
The poets and poems on these CDs are thoughtfully selected (Mike Harrison used to be an English teacher), with Blake, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats and Clare making up the core of the Romantics, while British Poetry from Two World Wars covers both the familiar - Owen, Sassoon, Keith Douglas and Charles Causley are among those well-represented - and the less well-known, such as Edgell Rickword and Sidney Keyes.
It is great to be able to hear the poems, to see first drafts in the poets' own handwriting, and to get a picture of the places and sights which stimulated them to verse - these CD-Roms make excellent use of the medium to extend students' understanding in new and stimulating ways.
Sarah Matthews Sarah Matthews is former head of English at Chipping Norton school, Oxfordshire