Character Masks

We got creative today! Taking the characters in our poems into account, we each designed a mask to illustrate how we think they will look. Here are the outcomes:

The whole class

Singh Song – Daljit Nagra

Students chose for Mr Singh to wear a traditional turban, or dastar, to represent the pride of his culture. They also felt that the colours should be vibrant, representing his happy, carefree life and healthy relationship. Some students chose to give him a cheeky smile and raised eyebrows, they felt that this represents his saucy love life with his wife ‘vee make love… like vee rowing through Putney’.

Medusa – Carol Ann Duffy

Medusa had to have snakes for hair; it is an image that we are all familiar with even if we haven’t read the poem. However, there were some nice interpretations of this, likening the snakes on her head to her twisted and bitter thoughts – the colour green representing her mad jealousy. They drew on ‘bullet tears’ to illustrate the metaphor used in the poem. There were some thoughtful interpretations, with some students choosing to make her natural features (eyes/lips/cheeks) beautiful to signify the beauty that she once possessed.

Hunchback in the Park – Dylan Thomas

The students chose to depict the hunchback as an old, disheveled fellow. He has unkempt hair and a wrinkled face to show the tough life that he lives. Most chose an anguished facial expression, with squinting eyes, to represent the pain of the ‘solitary mister’.

The Ruined Maid – Thomas Hardy

Two students chose to depict the two characters from Hardy’s poem: the ruined maid ‘Melia’ and the unnamed country girl. Melia is shown as glamorous and beautiful to signify her new ‘high class’ lifestyle. The ‘country girl’ was portrayed as simple yet still pretty, she has dirt on her face to signify the hard life of a farm girl in the Victorian era. Notice their facial expressions; the ruined maid seems vacant and distant, whereas the country girl has a warm, genuine smile.

The Clown Punk – Simon Armitage

The clown punk is shown here at his young age. He has the typical look of a punk – tattoos and a mohican. His facial expression is blank, showing the fact that he isn’t really given a voice in the poem. He has dark circles under his eyes, foreshadowing his future decay.

Checking Out Me History – John Agard

The student chose to cover Agard’s right eye to represent the metaphor ‘Bandage up me eye with me own history/Blind me to me own identity’.

The River God – Stevie Smith

Miss Belcher drew The River God and decided to have a strong focus on the colours green and blue. This obviously represents his setting (river) but the colours also connote feelings from the poem; blue for pride and strength, green for his bitter resentment of the women he holds hostage. His old age is also shown ‘Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools’

Brendon Gallacher – Jackie Kay

Miss Ryan drew Brendon Gallacher. She chose to give him red hair, pale skin and freckles to represent his Irish identity. He also has a holey t-shirt to signify his poverty and deprivation. He has a cherub like face that represents the narrators fondness for him. The image is also mirrored with a blank silhouette to represent his absence after he ‘died’.

We were able to cement our ideas and perceptions of the characters/voices in the cluster of poems. The class also enjoyed the opportunity to get creative and do some drawing!

Themes 2

We came into class and got started on our posters immediately. We were given 30 minutes to complete the posters; most students were able to complete the task on time, but others needed an extension.

Once the posters were complete, groups paired up to share their ideas with each other. After around 5 minutes, the paired groups had to swap posters and find another pair to teach the new theme to. We used our ability to listen and memorise ideas taught by our peers, as well as our ability to speak and share ideas with each other.

Miss Ryan was very happy with our work and commented on the quality of our presentation of ideas. The posters will go up on our classroom wall tomorrow.

Identity – Mitesh and Ashneil

Checking Out Mi History: “Blind me to me own identity”. John Agard feels as though black history has been undermined in our culture, he wants to reclaim his culture and affirm his own identity.

Dialogue – Nishita

Chatty and conversational in Singh Song! “Hey Singh, ver yoo bin?

Lively and rhythmic in The Ruined Maid “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,/Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks:

Men’s Voices – Boaz and Adam

The River God: “If she wishes to go I will not forgive her” Powerful and controlling, sees women as inferior so doesn’t have good relationships with them as a result.

Singh Song!: “cos up di stairs is my newly bride/vee share in chapatti/vee share/in di chutney/after vee hav made luv/like vee rowing through Putney –” Loving and sharing, a respect for women’s identities and a good relationship with his wife.

Metaphors – Gregg and Josh

Hunchback in the Park: “Hunchbacked in Mockery” – negative.

Checking Out Me History: “a healing star/among the wounded/a yellow sunrise/to the dying” – positive depiction of Mary Seacole.

Narratives – Savena and Shruti

The Clown Punk: “every pixel of the man’s skin is shot through with indelible ink“.

Hunchback in the park “solitary mister“.

Both are characterised as outcasts because no one  knows them well, they can only be written about in the third person and are never given their own voice.

Women’s Voices – Radhika and Tanisha

The Ruined Maid: “‘O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?’ said she.” Melia is proud of her career as a prostitute, Thomas Hardy is mocking the Victorian idea that it is better to be moral and poor.

Decay – Jack and Roshani

The state, or process, of rotten decomposition:

Medusa: “I stared at a singing bird, and a handful of dusty gravel splattered!

The Clown Punk: “The deflated face and shrunken scalp

Contrasts – Vishal and Shivani

The Ruined Maid – the difference between “tatters” and “gay bracelets“, contrasts poverty with wealth.

Ozymandias – the difference between “shatter’d visage” and “king of kings“, contrasts power with loss of power.

Negative Emotions – Abbie and Bhavu

Hunchback in the Park: “his kennel in the dark“.

Clown Punk: “wince and scream“.

Pride – Asma and Chandni

The Ruined Maid: “Some Polish” – a strange thing to be proud of (prostitution).

Singh Song!: “De worst Indian shop” – a playful joke, reveals a carefree lack of pride.

Checking Out Me History: “a healing star” – pride in culture and history.

Monologues – Dixita

River God: “I can drown fools” an egotistical monologue contrasted with sinister  immaturity “hi yih yippety yap“.

Checking out me History: “Dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat” a mocking monologue that critiques our preference of teaching white history over black history.

Power – Jerome and Karum

Medusa: “Are you terrified?” – a rhetorical question followed by a pause for dramatic tension. Female voice

My Last Duchess: “I gave commands” – powerful and controlling. Male Voice.

Themes 1

The images above are evidence of the work that we have done on our comparison grids so far. The pictures also feature annotations of some of our anthologies.

We have to work on connecting themes over the next two lessons. We have been asked to design theme posters which we we have to present and display on the walls. Miss Ryan remarked that our posters aren’t always as visually attractive as they could be, so that is a major target for us.

Here are the twelve themes/links that we’ve been asked to look at:

  1. Women’s’ Voices
  2. Men’s Voices
  3. Pride
  4. Decay
  5. Identity
  6. Negative Emotions
  7. Power
  8. Monologues
  9. Contrasts
  10. Dialogues
  11. Narratives
  12. Metaphors

Our posters should contains: A definition of the theme; how it is illustrated in 2-3 poems; relevant quotations; links, comparisons and contrasts.

Dilan, the class monitor, is in charge with making notes on groups’ progress and has also been appointed the ‘class expert’ on all themes and will ask questions to challenge students ideas. He is given a textbook in order to help him push students further.

The main observations revealed that everybody worked really hard in the lesson, they all needed very little help and showed a great understanding of the poems. The most hardworking students of the lesson were:


Josh and Greggg

Shruti and Savena

Ashneil and Mitesh

Here is a list of the poems that the students felt best displayed the themes:

  1. Women’s’ Voices – Medusa and The Ruined Maid
  2. Men’s Voices – The River God, Ozymandias and Singh Song
  3. Pride – Checking Out Me History, Ozymandias, The Ruined Maid
  4. Decay – Medusa, The Ruined Maid The Clown Punk
  5. Identity – Checking Out Me History, The Ruined Maid
  6. Negative Emotions – The Ruined Maid, Hunchback in the Park, Clown Punk
  7. Power – Medusa, The River God, My Last Duchess
  8. Monologues – Checking Out Me History, The River God
  9. Contrasts – The Ruined Maid, Ozymandias
  10. Dialogues – Singh Song, The Ruined Maid
  11. Narratives – The Clown Punk, Hunchback in the Park
  12. Metaphors – Hunchback in the Park, Checking Out Me History, Singh Song.

Students collected quotations, planned ideas and began their designs today. The poster will be completed next lesson and presented back to the class.


Connecting Poems

We began the lesson by reviewing the work done in the previous lesson and reading our last post. We noted that Radhika had set a high standard of quality for her notes taken.

We had to come up with a statement to add to the ‘About Us’ section of the blog.

We were given a comparison grid for the 15 poems in the AQA Character and Voice cluster in the literature anthology.





To start, we sat down together and compiled ideas for the last poem that we studied ‘The Ruined Maid’. Miss Ryan sat down with us to do this and we completed the 6 rows of the grid together.

Miss Ryan began by performing an effective reading of the poem to remind us of the main ideas.

 This is what we found: ‘The Ruined Maid’

Ideas and Feelings: Two women reunite after a long period of time. They both used to be poor, country women, but one (Melia) has become a prostitute.

  • Jealousy/Resentment.
  • Poverty.
  • Honesty.
  • Pride.
  • Contrasts.


  • 6 stanzas consisting of 4 lines each.
  • Two rhyming couplets per stanza.
  • Form – Ballad.
  • Melia always says the last line of each stanza – she has the final word.
  • It shows DIALOGUE (two speakers) between the two characters. Contrasting with ‘The River God’ and ‘Medusa’ which are both MONOLOGUES (one speaker)


  • The last word on the 3rd line of each stanza has a dash. We felt that this could show many things. Perhaps it is highlighting the phonetic pronunciation. It also could show the lack of education of the poor, unnamed girl.
  • ‘Thy’, ‘O’, ‘Barton’ (barn), reveal the 19th century context.
  • The country girl is shown as surprised and friendly. The use of exclamation marks and rhyme help this tone.
  • It is light-hearted.
  • When read aloud, it has a humorous tone.
  • Melia is shown as rebelious/unusual for a woman (especially in those days) to be so proud of being a prostitute.

Poetic Techniques:

  • Rhyming Couplets.
  • Metaphor – line 12 ‘Some polish is gained with one’s ruin’
  • Simile – line 13 ‘Your hands were like paws then’
  • Metaphor – line 13 ‘Your face blue and bleak’
  • Personification – line 14 ‘I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek’.
  • Mostly written in iambic pentameter – adds to the song like tone.

Miss Ryan is planning a revision activity for those of us who have forgotten about poetic techniques.

Key words:

Rhyming couplet – two consecutive lines that rhyme.

Metaphor – to directly compare one thing to another.

Simile – to make a comparison using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’.

Personification – to attribute human characteristics or actions to an object.

Iambic Pentameter – a line of poetry with 10/11 syllables, 5 of which would be stressed (emphasised) when spoken aloud. It replicates natural rhythms of speech: ‘I’m going to buy a can of Fanta’ or ‘Can we have lasagne for dinner mum?’


  • Women’s voices.
  • Poverty.
  • Power.
  • Ruin/Decay

Personal Opinions:

  • ‘Goodness’ and a moral code don’t always pay off with material wealth.
  • We are made to feel almost jealous of a prostitute.
  • Melia is strangely proud of her career.
  • A contrast between the rich and poor.
  • An insight into the lives of working class women in Victorian times.

When we combine all of our opinions, we come up with the best answer. We learn more when we listen to each other.

We thought we could complete the grid in 6-7 minutes, but it actually took about 15 minutes to compile the information on ‘The Ruined Maid’. We were given time to complete the grid for 2 more poems.

Miss Ryan read ‘Ozymandias’ aloud to help us remember, as we hadn’t read it for about a year. Some notes on the form in ‘Ozymandias’:

  • It is a sonnet: 14 lines, Iambic Pentameter, alternating rhyming .
  • However, there are several aspects that make it an irregular sonnet: the use of enjambment,  irregular rhyme scheme, no rhyming couplet.
  • We felt that the breaks in regular structure mirrored the break in Ozymandias’ power. The fact that only his feet are left could represent his lowest point. The idea of CONTRASTS is also apparent in ‘The Ruined Maid’
  • It links with the decay that we see in ‘The Ruined Maid’ and ‘The Clown Punk’.

Throughout the lesson we made a note of pupil contributions. Here is the tally of the most regular contributors:

Nishita – 8

Radhika – 5 (But she shouted out twice – needs development Radhika!)

Savena – 5

Josh – 4

Vishal – 3

Jack – 3

Karum – 2

Asma – 2

Chandni – 2

Everybody else contributed once, but they had to be targeted to give their opinions. We are looking for these students to have a more active role in contributions next lesson!

Like Ozymandias’ power and the The Ruined Maid’s morals, our time at school is coming to an end. With around 24 lessons left until the exams, we can only achieve if we engage  in what we are doing and listen to each other.


Constructing a Poetry exam answer

Today, we were all given an A grade response to the poem ‘Singh Song!’. The example showed us how to write a response to this question: Compare how voices are used in ‘Singh Song!’ (Daljit Nagra) and one other poem from Characters and Voices. The example looked at the poem alongside John Agard’s ‘Checking Out Me History’.

Key Points that we learnt:

  • A grade answers take a more conceptualised approach to answering the question.
  • ‘Singh Song!’ and’ Checking Out Me History’ both use dialect and phonetic language to emphasise the link between voice and culture.
  • You are marked on your ability to compare – comparisons should be constant throughout your answer.
  • Extra marks will be rewarded in you write in full, formal sentences and you paragraph your work.

How to Paragraph your work:

P. 1 – INTRODUCTION: Say what your answer will be about. Begin to compare poems         straight away.

P. 2 – FORM AND STRUCTURE: The effect of form and structure in each poem. You should analyse the structure of each, showing how they relate to the theme named in the essay title.

P. 3 – LANGUAGE: The effect of language choices made by the writer, again linking to the theme named in the essay title. You should write about the effect of figurative language (Similes/Metaphors/Personification) and sounds created with words (Assonance/Consonance/Alliteration).

P. 4 – WIDER ISSUES: Comment on any other interesting points of comparison or contrast, the effect on yourself and other readers over time and any contextual/background information that is useful to know.

P. 5 – CONCLUSION: A quick summary of your ideas, a personal preference.

Things to Include – Assessment Objectives:

  • Make a variety of points, showing your level of understanding.
  • Use a range of precise, well selected quotations.
  • Talk about the effect of writer’s choices in Language.
  • Talk about the effect of writer’s choices in Structure.
  • Make clear comparisons, or points of contrast, between the two poems.

New Vocabulary:

SYNTAX – The grammatical make up of a sentence. In ‘Checking Out Me History’, John Agard uses broken syntax “Touissaint/a slave/with vision/lick back” to highlight the patterns of vocal communication in African Caribbean oral tradition.

NOMINATIVE DETERMINATION – Where the author chooses a name that relates to a character’s personality. In ‘Of Mice and Men’, Steinbeck uses names that symbolise a lot about the characters. Candy, for example, offers a sweet solution to George and Lennie’s Dream and, with his financial imput, the dream actually feels possible.

Miss Ryan’s tip for using technical words:

Do not use fancy words for the sake of it. Your analysis is worth much more than dropping long words to sound smart. If you can’t explain the effect of the techniques that you spot, or use the techniques in the right context, then they are not worth using. Devote your attention to developing an excellent analysis that shows how you interpret the poems.

Planning an Exam Answer:

Compare how relationships are explored in ‘Medusa’ and one other poem from characters and voices

What other poems could you compare Medusa with?

  1. ‘Singh Song!’ – Strongest contrast as the relationship in this poem is a positive contrast to the negativity in Medusa.
  2. ‘The River God’/’My Last Duchess’ – these are strong examples for comparison as the characters created all have similar issues of control and threat in their relationships. It could be analyse how the gender of the poet makes reveals contrast in ideas.
  3. We felt that relationships are also seen in ‘The Ruined Maid’ and ‘The Hunchback in the Park’ but the comparisons aren’t as strong as the first three poems listed.

We all created our own plans ready for a timed practice during next weeks lessons.


Blogging our hard work.

Dear EN4,

I have created this blog as a space for us to log all the fantastic work that we do in class. Your efforts with poetry have really impressed me and I’d like us to have a formal record of our lessons.

Every lesson from now on,  each of you will take a turn at being the lesson montior. You will record the discussions, ideas and thoughts that take place in G9 and they will be put onto this blog. This is great for those of you who are absent, and will serve as a useful revision tool in May.

We’ll start with poetry, then move onto Of Mice and Men and The Crucible. I hope that you all appreciate this idea and will help me on making it a success!

Knowledge is power,

Miss Ryan