This term in English, Year 8 are studying poetry from other cultures. The aim of this unit is to encourage students to appreciate a variety of international cultures and the way they are represented in poetry. The poems we study originate from a diverse range of nations, including Ireland, Jamaica, South Africa and India.

To begin the unit, we revise poetic techniques and allow students to have some fun with similes, metaphors and personification.

Image Caption: Learning about similes and metaphors with Bruce the Shark

The best part of this unit is always the composition and sharing of poems in the class. One of our rising-star poets at Hills Gramar is Thom Simpson, who writes poignant, evocative pieces that transform the banal into the beautiful. Below is a personification poem he wrote about a gap in the concrete – well done, Thom!

The gap

Swallowing up coins, mud, forever eating,

Spewing out grass,

Always greedy,

Tripping pedestrians like a schoolyard bully,

Lips of concrete,

Constantly stepped on,

Longing for revenge,

The gap

- Thom Simpson

Since the central aim of this unit is to appreciate the representation of different cultures, we begin each new poem with some ‘front-loading’ activities about the cultures from whence the poems come. So, before reading WB Yeats’ The Fiddler of Dooney, we enjoyed some fiddle music, discussed whether Shamrocks are meant to have three or four leaves, and learned how to speak with an Irish accent – not so easy! Likewise, before reading ‘Island Man’ by Grace Nichols, we got into the groove with some reggae music and exchanged ideas about what it would be like to live in Jamaica – lots of beaches, Bob Marley braids and… bobsleds?

Image caption: What do you know about Jamaican culture? Words and symbols activity.

In addition to composing their own, students learn the art of annotation and analysis. By annotating their poems, our students are now getting used to the idea that the messier their page is the better!

We ensure that students truly immerse themselves in language and enjoy the meaning made by poetic techniques.

Image caption: Getting into annotating

We are now half-way through the poetry unit. Once we have read and annotated all the poems set for study, our Year 8 students will have another go at composing an essay. Drawing on feedback on their essays on The Hunger Games in Term 1, students will compose extended critical analysis in response to an essay question about culture and poetry. Whilst our standards and expectations are high at Hills, we know our students are up to the challenge! As essays tend to be the ‘scariest’ part of high-school English, the English faculty ensure that students in Years 7-10 are given ample opportunity to practice before the rigour of Stage 6. We have enjoyed this unit, we hope Year 8 have too.

Amy Hughes | English Teacher