Eliciting a Written Response

The Written Plan

One of my all time favourite quotes is :”Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”

I believe in empowering the students with the belief that a poem has been written for them. To assert their right , they need to interpret using their own connections.If they make a point , they need to back it up with textual clue so that they can present their case for the personal response, which is the aim of any examination that a student of poetry undertakes.

But how can we make our students be so confident about their individual take on any poem?

Writing a plan for a   5 paragraph essay, while highlighting all the textual evidence found in the text and how they connect is imperative if a student aims at a higher band.

There are quite a few graphical organizers through which the planning process can be facilitated. One of them is to adopt mind maps for this purpose. The link below illustrates how a given question can be  planned around for the desired response:

ebb sonnet 43 poetry clues

Responding to the Poetry Section

The emphasis in poetry questions is on ‘how’ the poet communicates. Obviously ‘what ‘is being communicated is important, but candidates should not think that merely summarizing and paraphrasing the poem(s) will be sufficient for a satisfactory answer. Nor will merely giving a list of poetic devices, such as:’ this is an example of paraphrasing ‘,’this is a metaphor’. Candidates are being assessed on the extent to which they understand and can evaluate the effect of the use of a particular word  or image or sound on the meaning and impact of the poem.

Candidates can approach the question ( as any question) by determining the key issues that they are asked to address.

Activity 1

Following are some of the actual examination questions for Literature in English 2010. Underline the keywords in each of them.

  1. Norman Nicholson uses childhood as a means of exploring other ideas in Rising Five. Identify the ideas of the poem and comment on the ways in which they are presented.
  2. Comment on the ways in which changes in perspective between childhood and adulthood are explored in  the following poems: Plenty and Rising Five
  3. Comment on the ways in which Heaney presents the experience of grief in Mid- Term Break
  4. Explore the ways in which the poet has used language and other poetic devices to present ideas in Rising Five and Mid-Term Break
  5. How do Wordsworth’s words create the striking picture of a girl and illustrate the effect she has on the poet.
  6. Comment on the ways in which changes in perspective between childhood and adulthood are explored in two of the following poems: Plenty, Rising Five, Little Boy Crying
  7. Consider the significance of the ways in which women are presented in two of the following poems: Muliebrity, Plenty, She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways.
  8. Explore how Heaney significantly portrays grief in Mid Term Break.

As you must have noticed, the questions direct candidates to consider the poet’s use of words: which require not merely a general overview or summary but detailed focus on that particular aspect of the poem. Hence this requires a strong personal response and invites selection of particular words and images.

It is therefore essential to plan the answer, to select the words and images that are particularly asked for in the question, and to explore their effects in depth. Quality is more important than quantity.

Phrasing of Poetry Questions

Essay type and Passage –based questions

  1. ‘Explore how/explore the ways’…the word ‘explore’ is used in a large proportion of poetry questions. It means more than/explain’. It is an invitation to probe as well as to examine, but most of all it requires an individual approach; what one person explores will not be the same as another. To explore these ways , sometimes the structure of the poem or language will be the tools to assist you .
  1. ‘memorable’, ’striking’,’ powerful’, ’unexpected’, are all words intended to trigger a strong response. Even if the question seems to be focusing on a specific topic, there will usually be some such stimulus somewhere in the question.
  1. Specific emotions such as ‘joy’, ’sadness’, ’anger’,’regret’ may be used to identify the tone or mood of specific poems and to give a specific angle to a question.

Compare or Contrast questions

Thematically linked, structurally similar or employing similar language attributes are the concern of such questions

  1. Consider the significance of the ways in which theme of ———–is  presented in two of the following poems.
  1. Explore the ways in which the poet has used language and other poetic devices to present ideas in _____________ and __________

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Responding to poetry section


About Ms. N's Rhyme and Reason

Hi, In the beginning was the word. Hence begins the history of humankind, in all domains of evolution. The thriving of civilizations has depended on how articulate were their teachers- the ones who descended with the learned art to their offspring generations. This phenomenon of transmitting of genetic code of learning has been at the heart of my inspiration to teach. This art somehow has transformed into a mantra for me, and it has never ceased to amaze me. Although to become a perfect teacher one might take a lifetime, but if one tries to be perfect, one negates the reason to experiment and fail. Hence, I may have faltered in some of my approaches, but my aspiration has been to try rectifying the short-coming, to connect again with the subject-matter and my pupils, to demystify the intended outcome, to enthuse the learners again, and to keep the cycle going.
This entry was posted in For Teachers:The Art of Assisting Discovery, GCE O Level Literature in English, Poetry Anthology for 2010-11,2011-12, Poetry Anthology for the year 2012-13 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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