Tag Archives: thinkingskills

Who was that man in the mask? (or persona in Atwood’s poetry!)


We are having so much fun exploring Atwood’s poetry in class. The poems we set for study are: This is a photograph of me, Siren Song, Helen of Troy Does Counter-top Dancing, Morning in the Burned House, In the Secular Night and Journey to the Interior. The poems span decades of Atwood’s poetry, which is useful, but more importantly they have some similar themes and some very different ideas. The use of persona is one of the features of Atwood’s work that I find most intriguing. Moving on from last week’s explorations of  the “You” and the “Me” in “You fit into me”, we focused on the speaker and the ‘spoken to’ in this group of poems.

After a lesson on the assessment task, (kids have to create an illuminated text, using slideshow, of one of the poems, with analysis notes) we spent some deep thinking time on one poem each, beginning with ‘first impression’ questions:

  • What is the poem about? ie subject matter
  • How does the poet feel about the subject?
  • What social/cultural/historical/personal issues is the poet commenting on?
  • How do you know how the poet feels about the subject?
  • How does the poem make you feel?
  • What does the poet do in the poem to make you feel this way?

I like these questions as a starting point for students own explorations because they usually lead students to the ‘heart’ of the poem, so that everything we do after leads back to this. Kids are encouraged to annotate as they undertake this first personal reading of the poem.

I should probably explain that I have shifted my practice a bit and instead of treating one poem at a time, we start with a focusing idea or feature and in pairs and teams students are assigned one of the poems to work on. I have a system set up to make sure they get in class activity time on each of the poems at least twice.

After their deep and meaningful encounter on first impressions (could have heard a pin drop) we followed up with the first stage of the Thinking Routine Connect, Extend, Challenge , where students were asked: How does Atwood’s poetry connect to your previous experience of poetry? These responses were shared in teams and then a member of each group explained the differences between his or her connections and others in the team to the class. HW was to do the first impressions on the five poems they didn’t do in this class task, spending only 15 minutes on each of the other five.

In the next lesson we considered the question: Who is speaking? Kids were encouraged to look for things that weren’t said, ambiguities, circular ideas, ‘who is this person, really?’ as well as the details about the speaker that were stated or made clear. They began with time alone with the poem (another satisfying engrossed silence from 16 year olds) and then moved into pairs and threes with the same poem.

In the team task student chose one line that ‘summed up’ the essence of the speaker and then wrote 10 lines together justifying their choice. Of course, they could refer to other lines in their justification, and they did. We shared these explanations aloud. Great task for building and modelling analysis essay writing skills.

The final lesson of the week focused on: Who is the speaker addressing?

Is anybody out there?


I’ve had a super frustrating time lately. Mega issues with home computer has meant that I have been without a home computer for about two weeks. I’ve been able to connect and get some work done using my DER laptop but the screen is so small! Must drive the kids crazy. I’ve also been trying to migrate my website to a new host in the middle of home computer having a hissy fit. Despite this I have kept working on my goal to try out software and other resources with Year 10 laptop lessons.

This week we used the laptops to create mindmaps on charaters in Guitar Highway Rose. We used bubbl.us instead of FreeMind (which we all thought was too limiting anda bit boring visually). Kids picked up how it worked really fast and it works well on the IWB. I’d like to experiment with the “sharing” function. Has anyone tried it? Before we used it I reminded students of the security aspects of “social networking” since it is a social networking site, even if it doesn’t look like one.

I’m still struggling with the pedagogical shift in using the laptops and trying to maintain a student-centred focus and collaborative team classroom. I’ve noticed in the past that whenever I am using new skills or strategies in the classroom I shift into teacher-centred mode. I think it is a fall back position for coping with risk taking and not being completely sure how something new is going to work.

The other thing I’ve done is start a ning for our local area English teachers. After our combined Staff Development Day there was a lot of interest in sharing and helping each other so I’m hoping this is a way for people to do this.

Has anyone used the DET BlogEd resources yet? I’ve tried to begin a class blog but I think I’ve hit the wrong button somewhere, it seems to be just my blog which really limits kids participation.

As for my title this week. I don’t think anyone reads this blog and feel like I’m talking to myself. Not that I mind talking to myself, but it does seem a bit self-indulgent. So even if you just look sometimes – a little feedback would make my day!