In my early years of teaching, I spent many hours cutting up coloured cards, agonising over the correct image to correctly illustrate a skill and differentiated by making a terrifying range of different resources for every possible level within the classroom. Now? I realise less is more and I save my laminating for those multipurpose resources that I am going to use again and again. These conflict poetry strips are quick to create and incredibly versatile when exploring and revising poems. Below are five different ways that you can use them in lessons to enhance your teaching of the conflict poems.
Although these can be useful for students of all abilities, the visual element is particularly helpful for lower ability students who struggle to move between the literal and figurative element of poetry. For those students who are intimidated by elaborate lexical choices, subtle tones and unfamiliar imagery, image strips are a perfect way to give them a visual frame of reference that allows them to fearlessly explore ideas within the poems and gain confidence with poetry. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a set to accompany the AQA conflict poems.
Pre reading activities
Explore poems by using an image strip to explore the imagery contained within a poem before students read it. Give out the images and ask students to make predictions about themes, tones, content and even the words that they might expect to see within a poem.
My lower ability group took these images from London and came up with a verb, adjective and adverb inspired by each image. They used these to create their own poetry using paintings of London in the industrial revolution. When it came to reading Blake’s poem they were fascinated by the similarities and differences in the work that they had produced and the poem they were now going to study.
You can also have some really useful conversations about structure. If you arrange your strips so the images reflect the order that the reader encounters the images within the poem, you can discuss patterns and explore building tension, increasing intensity of imagery or a build up to a more dramatic concluding image e.g. in Bayonet Charge.
If your budget can extend to a colour photocopy for each student, cutting the images up and physically sticking them into student anthologies is a great way of helping them understand and visualise key images. My lower ability group find that matching images to key lines helps them with their initial reading of the poems. Memory is also a significant issue for some SEN learners; being able to flick through their anthology and see sets of visual images next to the words appears to be helping them to recall the content of the poetry more comfortably; in my mixed ability group, it becomes optional for those that find it a useful strategy.
Remembering quotations is an enormous challenge for some students but we know that the more varied the ways we ask students to recall quotations, the more likely they are to encode this information and be able to retrieve it from their long term memory in an exam setting. We sometimes use images in low stakes testing and ask students to use these visual images to help them remember some key lines. Quotations from poems like ‘Storm on the Island’ and ‘Extract from the Prelude’ massively lend themselves to the use of images. Every single student in my nurture group always remembers ‘spits like a tame cat turned savage’ when they see this image. No need to make a test for the start of the lesson – just put a few image strips on each table and challenge students to write down as many quotations as they can.
It’s difficult to manage over reliance on anthology annotations. Of course students want to diligently record the interpretations discussed in class and the carefully explored word choices but we all know that a well annotated anthology certainly doesn’t lead to success in a poetry response – often quite the opposite. As students write poetry responses across the year, you are likely to begin with a high level of scaffolding. We use model answers, sentence starters, class planning and the support of anthologies in Year 10 but as the course progresses and students gain confidence, we expect them to feel able to tackle questions with less support from us and a more independent approach to the thinking, planning and writing of their ideas. For those that are not quite there yet, giving them a set of image strips offers support and visual prompts for quotations key images and structure without putting the actual poem in front of them.
Another useful ways of teaching students to explore connections and contrasts within the conflict poetry cluster is to give them sets of image strips for a selection of the poems and use them to look for interesting oppositions. One group came up with these groups of contrasts based on the image strips for Remains, Bayonet Charge, Charge of the Light Brigade, War Photographer and Exposure:
- Violence vs Numbness
- Urgency vs Futility
- Action vs Emptiness
- Religion vs Hell
- Guilt vs Fear
Each member of this group took on one of these contrasts that interested them and wrote a piece of analysis which explained it in detail. They were allowed to look up any quotations that they couldn’t remember; most found the visual prompt enough to recall useful words and lines anyway.
Poetry image strips always seem to go down well with classes but if anyone is out there using these or something similar in exciting ways, we would love to hear about it in the comments below.