My best lesson - Look on my works, ye Mighty, and love poetry

18th July 2014 at 01:00

Poetry is a sore point for many English teachers, who must battle the perception that it is difficult and doesn't make sense. My favourite lesson for changing pupils' minds explores Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

First, we watch the end of the original Planet of the Apes film, in which the protagonist discovers the ruined Statue of Liberty. This helps students to understand the symbolic meaning of Shelley's poem, setting up a discussion on dystopia versus utopia.

Then I introduce connections to other literature. Students like being able to contextualise their learning by linking to things they already know; films and novels such as Judge Dredd, The Hunger Games, Children of Men, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Divergent are ideal.

Next we use a poetry analysis technique, WPSLOMP, to discuss:

What the poem is about;

Persona and point of view;


Language used and its effects;

Other Methods (metaphors, similes, rhyme scheme);

Personal interpretation of the poem.

We use this technique to consider specific phrases in the poem and to answer key questions. A high-level word bank encourages students to develop the analytical skills they will need in exams.

To consolidate this knowledge, I ask pupils to create a short piece of creative writing about the future of their school. This activity should cement the points raised about the themes of the poem without requiring line-by-line analysis - a process that is despised by many students.

The lesson's plenary is to answer an exam-style question. This extended learning could also be set as a homework task; its function is to develop students' knowledge of the poem into a linear essay answer.

The style of this lesson suits many pupils, developing those who are at a higher level while supporting the needs of the lower level. It prepares students for exam-style writing without scaring them with in-depth analysis, instead introducing a creative writing task.

Georgia Neale is an English teacher at a secondary school in East Sussex

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