It's an English lesson. The aim is to develop an understanding of symbolism in poetry. I need an approach to encourage a teenager's natural creativity, so I decide upon the following ingredients:
- 1 teacher.
- 24 students.
- 1 dollop of Alfred Tennyson's The Eagle, with a sprinkling of vocabulary assistance at the bottom of the text.
- 12 helpings of an image of an eagle.
I begin by giving students the poem with the title blanked out. In pairs, their task is to come up with their own title based on the content of the poem and then to explain their choice to the class. This is a great way to help students form their own opinions about the poem.
I then reveal the true title and hand out images of an eagle. I ask the students to individually create a spider diagram of words they think of when looking at the image. This leads into a class discussion about the definitions of a metaphor and a symbol.
The next building block for the lesson is to get the class to pick a word they like in the poem and to explain why, then to make a comment on the structure.
All this preparation leads up to a creative task: I get the students to write a short poem, consisting of six lines about an animal in the style of Tennyson's The Eagle. I ask that each poem contain a simile, a metaphor and a rhyme structure.
Students really embrace this task, seizing the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild. I get them to read their poems out to show off their skills - I can see how proud they are of their achievement.
To finish, we discuss what symbolism is and pinpoint examples, thereby consolidating the learning.
It isn't the glitziest lesson, but it is simple and contains many elements that help students in their English studies. It also shows how important simple, clear teaching is. Learning and creativity is key, not how many animations and special effects you have in your PowerPoint presentation.
Chris C Green is an English and theory of knowledge teacher at Ecole Internationale de Geneve, Switzerland.