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

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

Chapter 4
Words and imagery

POLONIUS What do you read, my lord?

HAMLET Words, words, words.

POLONIUS What is the matter, my lord?

HAMLET Between who?

POLONIUS I mean, the matter that you read, my lord?

HAMLET Slanders, Sir.

(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, ll.191–5)

CLOWN To see this age! A sentence is but a chev’ril glove to a good wit – how quickly the
wrong side may be turned outward!

(Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene 1, ll.11–13)

In this chapter we explore poetry through the aspect of lexis and imagery. We focus on the importance of word class for teaching, using Ted Hughes’ ‘Roger the Dog’ and Irene McLeod’s ‘Lone Dog’ at KS3. We follow this by looking at teaching through the use of imagery and personification at KS4 with Hughes’ ‘Thistles’. The next teaching technique addressed is the use of rhyme and rhythm to convey meaning, using Zephaniah’s ‘It’s Work’ and Gunn’s ‘Baby Song’ with KS5. The chapter finishes with a case study of teaching Year 9 exploring the use of simile in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’.


Introduction: using words and imagery in the classroom

Shakespeare understood the importance of words. The significance of the single words ‘madness’ and ‘revenge’ are pivotal to the plot and action (or lack of it) in Hamlet; the word ‘nothing’ in King Lear and ‘love’ in Twelfth Night similarly so. So it is too in poetry. The effect of single words is a fruitful entry into interpreting meaning with pupils, along with the significance of larger clusters of words, which may be linked by imagery or syntactically. The introduction to the Framework for Secondary English states that this is one of the key principles that underlie the thinking of the strategy, in stipulating what should be taught in English lessons:

Looking at the patterns, structures, origins and conventions of English helps pupils
understand how language works. Using this understanding, pupils can choose and adapt
what they say and write in different situations, as well as appreciate and interpret the
choices made by other writers and speakers.

(QCA n.d.)

-36-

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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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