Tag Archives: poetry

Edexcel IGCSE poetry for Lit (Anthology C)

I am preparing Y10 for the Anthology C poems for Edexcel.

This is a draft spreadsheet to try to organise their thinking in relation to the 16 poems.. I would welcome feedback and suggestions.

poems reference grid

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Remembrance Poetry competition: hints…

As part of my Yr 9 curriculum, I introduced a year 9 competition a couple of years ago.  The students are working on a war literature module and are required to submit a poem for a Remembrance Competition.


This year I have prepared this slide-deck to help my class prepare.  I will use a visualiser to write alongside them and will post the result.  Hopefully the winner, when posted, will be an altogether stronger poem!


The winning poems from an earlier year can be seen here: winners: poetry competition


My my first draft in the lesson, from the visualiser… a bit of work to do.  Why did I try trochaic hexameters in the beginning?



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A short introduction to poetic forms and structures

Aimed at Year 9 who are about to consider writing poems for a competition. this may not be to all tastes…



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The Hunting of the (JLS) Snark, revisited.

Years 7&8 have completed their celebration of the school’s 140th anniversary.  Here’s a little taste of their work.



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Hunting Snarks in Harrow

This summer my school celebrates 140 years in existence ( JLS 140 ). We are looking for something to work on with Years 7&8 to reflect this. Sadly 1876 seems quite a quiet year for Literature, but it does have the publication of The Hunting of the Snark and I think this might be productive.

  • First published in Easter 1876, Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark is a classic piece of Victorian nonsense poetry. It is easy to imagine the new boys at The John Lyon School being in receipt of this book as a present and learning to recite the verse among their friends. There meaning of the poem is obscure – if it has one at all!  Certainly the original group of travellers are left in little doubt that the “Snark IS a boojum, you see”.  The suggestion is that the object of our desire is somehow a deceit – a fantasy which will cause the finder to disappear entirely – perhaps to lose their individuality in the faceless world of a wider society.
  • Today, in our anniversary year, we are revisiting this text in Years 7&8 and electing to find our JLS Snark in 2016. A Snark is some form of scholarly success – certainly not solely academic – that might be the boojum- a one-trick pony who offers little to society than an obsession with personal achievement ion a narrow academic context.  Our Snarks seek a wide range of skills and activities and learn that failure is only deferred success and that risk-taking in the name of progress is vital to the development not just of young minds, but of all humanity.”


This work in progress post looks at how I might deliver a short document in which the boys of years 7 & 8 consider their arrival at and path through secondary school as their own Snark hunt.

Quite what a Snark is, I a not yet sure – some form of quantifiable success/maturity, I imagine that becomes a Boojum if it is not rounded and leavened with a good mixture of all that a good school can offer in terms of Art, Music, Sport, Drama in addition to academic progression…

Hopefully each form will produce 1 “FIT” along these lines:FIT 1: Y7 The form gathers. In which forms create 4 line verse pictures of themselves and their Bellman – the form tutor or English Teacher.
FIT 2: Y7 The Bellman’s speech. In which the form write a short poem in 4 line ballad form to reflect the information and exhortations given by their Bellman. Must engage with what a Snark might be and Bellman’s rule of 3
FIT 3: Y7 The hunting (1) Ballad form recount of the main events of term 1 in the new school… – aspects of life: music, sport, art, drama and academic life… possibly playing with the idea that their Snark is a boojum unless it engages with a range of areas…
FIT 4: Y7 Hunting (2) Developing the idea of new skills and new experiences: Hockey? Cricket?
FIT 5: Y8 Have we found it? Looks back into y7 and considers whether it has been found
FIT 6: Y8 Is our Snark a Boojum? If so why – (it should be, at this stage…)
FIT 7: Y8 The vanishing and the determination to keep looking – what is needed in y9,10, 11 and so forth to develop boys as Snarks?

My first ideas can be found here:

snark teaching idea

Any help will be very gladly received!


Filed under Paedagogy, poetry

Poetry for Remembrance

As a footnote to my post on materials for teaching War Literature, I wanted to share two poems written by boys at school in response to a Remembrance Day Poetry Competition.  They are written by one year 10 and one year 9 boy and I will be presenting them with a prize next week.

What I love here is both the attention to form and the choice of content.

I hope you enjoy them:  why not offer them to classes for analysis?  With a Villanelle in the Edexcel lists – Do not go gently-  this might be quite a useful task.

poems for remembrance

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A relationship poetry group for Year 9

This is something I want to run out next term. Obviously there are so many poems to chose from, once I started it was very hard to know where to stop, and this might continue to grow. We use a home-grown anthology in year 9 and generally try to have a clear focus. War, relationships, the future, growth… (now I want to compile a new one starting with Heaney’s Drowning Kittens…)

Still, I went for texts and writers I love. Hardy and Heaney, Shakespeare and Rosetti, Kay and Duffy…

year 9 relationships anthology

So why these poems?

The two Sonnets are crucial to opening up a discussion. Shakespeare powerfully arguing for the everlasting nature of true love and a poem full of the richest figurative writing imaginable and Rosetti, seeming to speak from the same position until the volta introduces the shift and the move to selfless, rather than selfish love. Both are featured in the Edexcel IGCSE anthology which students may encounter in Year 11, though by then the shifts and changes in policy regarding these exams may well mean that the whole syllabus has been radically altered. Not to worry. Great poems deserve to be read.
Also in the anthology is Alice Walker’s Once Upon a Time. The poem looks at the effect of the loss of a loved one – a parent in this case and I have paired it with Heaney’s Digging, in my mind. Walker seems aware of the harshness of her childhood but ultimately sees the positive far outweigh the negatives – beatings happened, but he taught me “how”. Similarly, Heaney vows to “follow” his father. The close relationship (is there a better assonance and balance in all poetry than “snug as a gun”?) is clear, despite the obvious differences between father and son. Again, I hope to find much to discuss and develop in this idea.
Duffy and Kay are paired with two poems about or inspired by childhood. In Duffy’s poem the daughter tries to imagine her way into her mother’s mind and tries to imagine the life her mother led. She seems entranced by her mother’s youthful good looks, although the sense of possession found in the title hardly suggests a willingness to let go. Kay’s poem is all about imagination and childhood. The fragility of a childhood dream – an imaginary friend – which is both tragic and uplifting – I enjoy the grandiose lies of the cat burglar and sense of dissatisfaction with her father’s role as a Union Convenor. I think Kay is a wonderful poet to teach and share with young people and would eagerly teach the Adoption Papers as a single text if time and syllabus allowed. Maybe another time.
Finally, Hardy. I simply adore Hardy and in the Emma poems, the treatment of loss and grief is unsurpassed. Here there is much scope for exploration of Hardy’s rather selfish conclusion as he views himself and his philosophies, but also for the treatment of the “woman”. How affectionate is this poem? Is he angry and confused? Expressing grief or wallowing in self pity?

I can’t wait to see how opinions differ. After all what is the point of teaching poetry if everyone meekly accepts a single interpretation?

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My resource notes for Hardy poems and an introduction to Blake via the Songs of Innocence and experience can be found on the English Edu site at the following addresses. Enjoy them!



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GCSE revision 5

apostrophes. Poetry question advice (English Lit)

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