Teaching Poetry: Reading and Responding to Poetry in the Secondary Classroom

By Amanda Naylor; Audrey B. Wood | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Critical perspectives on teaching
poetry

CALIBAN (about Prospero):
      Remember
First to possess his books; for without them
He’s but a sot, as I am.

      (The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2, ll.91–3)

In this chapter, we discuss some significant theoretical perspectives on the ways that we teach poetry as English teachers. We look at ideas about the ways that we read and make meaning out of poems, notably those of Louise Rosenblatt and Wolfgang Iser. We touch on how Michael Benton used the ideas of Rosenblatt in the 1980s to examine the ways that young readers deal with poetry and suggest the ways in which these ideas are of significance to the ways that we teach in the classroom today.

When we are teaching poetry, we are subject as English teachers to a whole variety of influences. We have to teach a certain number of texts in a certain amount of time, to fulfil certain criteria. Even at Key Stage 3, where in the past there was time on the timetable to enjoy and have fun with texts, the pressure is ever-present to produce assessable outcomes from what we do in the classroom. So to have a philosophy of teaching English that is our own, to give us a rationale for why we teach as we do, is crucially important for us to remember and reflect on what we do in the classroom, and by extension, with poetry.

Rob Pope in The English Studies Book (2002) identifies two polarities that summarise the ways in which ideas about English tend to cluster; see Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 Polarities in English (Pope 2002: 31)
‘Traditional’‘Progressive’
English for employmentEnglish for ‘life’
Vocational training in a specialismEducation of a whole person
Promotion of a single standard languageRecognition of varieties
Emphasis on writingAttention to speech
Formal written examinationsMixed-mode assessment
Dictionary definitions and grammatical rulesFlexibility of usage
Canon of ‘great works’Open or no canon
National CurriculumLocal syllabuses
Single dominant identityMulticultural differences

-11-

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Teaching Poetry: Reading and Responding to Poetry in the Secondary Classroom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Teaching Poetry i
  • Title Page ii
  • Contents iv
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Why Poetry? 1
  • Chapter 2 - Critical Perspectives on Teaching Poetry 11
  • Chapter 3 - Aspects of Form 23
  • Chapter 4 - Words and Imagery 36
  • Chapter 5 - Voice in Poetry 51
  • Chapter 6 - Settings as Mirrors 65
  • Chapter 7 - Constructions of Character through Time 83
  • Chapter 8 - Narrative in Poetry 102
  • Chapter 9 - The Poetry of Conflict 117
  • Chapter 10 - Multi-Modality and New Technologies 135
  • Appendix - The Haward Version of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ 143
  • References 144
  • Index 150
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