Most of my ideas for teaching this section of the exam are based around helping students build their confidence. Here are a few methods I have used which have received some positive feedback from my students.
- Stick an unseen poem in the middle of an A3 sheet of paper. Ask the students to work on them individually for twenty minutes and blitz them with any ideas they can think of. If they need some ideas, give them the following list for guidance:
- Creative response (your imagination and feelings)
- Critical response (analysis)
- Structural devices
- Effects of language
Once they have done this, ask them to pair up with another student (who has the same poem) to share their ideas.
The next step is to join another pair who have a different poem. Give them some time to discuss their poems. Once they have done this, put a piece of paper in the middle of the poems with the following headings, under which students must work as a group to write ideas for comparison.
- Content and organisation
- Choice of words / phrases and effects
- Images and effects
- Personal responses
- To help students build a personal response (which I feel is something they tend to struggle with) ask them to skim an unseen poem three times. They should then talk to a partner about the first thing that has come into their mind after the readings. They should then write down three words from the poem that they had any kind or response to, then mind map reasons for that response. This can be repeated with lines and techniques from the poem as their confidence increases.
- A Band 5 response must have a sustained focus. A quick activity to focus on this skill is to ask students to write a paragraph or complete response to the question. Once they have done this they swap with a partner, who must judge the response carefully and highlight anything they think is not completely focused on the question. I like this simple activity as it really forces them to focus on the skill of keeping their response completely relevant.
- Students also need to demonstrate perceptive understanding to achieve a Band 5 mark. I use a class challenge to develop this skill. I ask students to work in pairs on an unseen poem and I give them 20 minutes. Every time they think of something perceptive to say about the poem, they need to write it on a post it and stick it on the board at the front of the room. At the end of the 20 minutes we read out each suggestion and use it as a discussion prompt as to whether it could be considered perceptive or not. As a class you then decide on which could be considered the most perceptive comment then model writing a paragraph around the idea.
- If you get a bit fed up of finding unseen poems, pass the responsibility onto the students! Ask them to bring in a poem and swap it with a partner. The partner should write a response based on the poem then give it back to the original owner, who is responsible for peer marking the response!
- Finally, it helps if students are clear about the differences in language, structure and form. Here’s a video I’ve made to help with this:
I hope you have found some of these ideas useful! As always, if you have an ideas you would like to share please use the comment box below.