Character and Voice Poetry: Aiming for A*

In order to get an A* in the exam, you should be imaginative with your response, ‘salt and pepper’ it with short, embedded quotations and ‘zoom in’ on the details. As I’ve said time and time again, it’s not about showing how much you know about the poems, but rather about how well you can analyse details to support your response to the poems. A* responses are fully engaged with the themes and ideas, making perceptive comments and interpretations. They also focus on the key skill – COMPARING! Here are some things to look for when comparing poems:


Here is a detailed comparison of My Last Duchess and The River God:


And another detailed comparison of The Ruined Maid and Singh Song!:


Comparing ‘Checking out me History’ and ‘Singh Song!’: Part Two

Today we recapped two poems from the anthology; Checking out me History (Agard) and Singh Song! (Nagra). First we listened to Singh Song! being read by Daljit Nagra then we worked through it line by line. We repeated the process with Checking out me History. As we did this, we were able draw out direct comparisons and contrasts regarding the structure and tone in the poems.

Here are some slides from the lesson with detailed interpretations of the poems and prompts for language analysis:

Singh Song!:

singh 1

singh 2

Singh 3

Checking out me History:

history 1

history 2

history 3

After this close reading, we began to search for evidence to compare the two poems. Students are asked to Go for Gold by completing this and writing a detailed comparison of the structure and tone of each poem. The prompts on this slide will help:

singh history compare

Student responses to this question will be displayed on this site soon.

Lesson Preparation: Checking out me History and Singh Song!


Tomorrow we will compare ‘Checking out me History’ (Agard) and ‘Singh Song!’ (Nagra). To prepare for this, here are some activities to complete:

Read each poem: both a few times, add to your annotations.

Visit BBC Bitesize for useful analysis videos: Checking out me History   Singh Song!

Consider these questions:

How do both poets structure their ideas and what effect does this have?

How do both poets use dialect in to create distinctive voices?

How do the ideas/themes in each poem contrast with each other and to what effect?

Which poem do you personally prefer and why?

The Horse Whisperer

Today we tackled The Horse Whisperer. The emphasis of the lesson was to take all that we had learned about studying poetry and apply to an ‘unseen’ poem. By the end of the lesson we developed confident/insightful commentary and analysis of the poem. Here is how we tackled it:

1. At the start of the lesson, we had to make inferences from a set of pictures inspired by the poem:

Horse imagery

We came up with many responses including: witchcraft, nature, secrets, fear, decay, religion, life, death… These would all help with our closer inspections.

2. After this, we were introduced to the poem by listening to a recording while reading our own anthologies . We were prompted to annotate any interesting features, as well as any evidence of the themes/ideas we had found in the starter.

3. In our newly formed groups, we were then prompted to make initial reactions about structure, word choices, reader reactions and themes/feelings in the poem. Each group had 3 minutes to make notes on a section before having to pass it onto another group. As we continued to swap sheets, our analysis became deeper. We had to read what previous groups had written and add to, or develop, their ideas – this included added quotations, explaining effects on readers and making assumptions about the author’s context.

Our findings were detailed and thoughtful, considering we only had 12 minutes to complete this – with virtually no help from Ms Ryan. A visitor to the class was impressed by our ability to develop confident interpretations independently. Here are the notes we produced:

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4. Each group then had 3 minutes to answer the question: “What is the Horse Whisperer about?” We shared our interpretations which were varied at this point, proving how there is no one true answer when it comes to interpreting poetry.

5. In the last 20 minutes of the lesson, we continued with the theme of independent study by searching for linguistic and structural techniques in the poem. Many students also used this time to update their annotations of the poem. Here are ten top findings from the lesson:


Next lesson we will dig deeper into the poem and begin to compare thematic and linguistic/structural links to other poems in the anthology.

The Crucible: Themes

Today we started looking at possible themes in The Crucible and made some notes on our initial thoughts about each theme. Here are our results:

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These are our initial ideas, we still have other themes to look at and we need to go into greater depth exploring those above. Next steps are:

  • Finding quotations which link to the themes.
  • Analysing the way that Arthur Miller presents each theme.
  • Evalutaing what he was trying to say about the times he wrote about, his own time and considering how ideas relate to our own time.

Mega Revision

In today’s lesson, we adopted a new approach to revising. With just two weeks to go until our first exam, we decided to keep revision short and sweet and focus on 2-3 topics per lesson.

Today we looked at a writing question from the language exam, a Character and Voice comparison question and an Of Mice and Men extract analysis. We focused on using planning time effectively to maximise exam performance. Here are some examples of what we did:

Writing – English Language Question 5:

writing planning

Student examples – paragraph openers:

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Character and Voice Poetry:

comparing poems

Here is a tally chart to show which poems were selected for comparison by the class:


Student examples – plans and quotations:

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Of Mice and Men – extract analysis:


Student examples – PEE language/technique and effects:

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You can use the materials in this post to continue revision by having a go at answering one of the exam questions we explored today. Additionally, you can reflect upon the topics that have been covered to help you plan your next steps for personal revision:

revision reflection

Happy revising! 🙂




Poetry Analysis – word choice, frequency and effect

Hi year 11,

The literature exam will reward students who offer an imaginative and creative interpretation of the poems. Your interpretation must be convincing and based on textual evidence (a quotation).

In order to get you looking at the poems in a different way, here are some word clouds for 6 of them: (Brendon Gallacher/Casehistory: Alison (Head Injury)/Checking out me History/The Clown Punk/Medusa/Les Grands Seigneurs)

The word clouds have deleted common words and used font size as a hierarchy for word frequency – the bigger the word, the more often it appears in the poem. Explore which words are repeated – how does this support your interpretation? Do any words stand out to you now in this context? Can you come up with something new?

Brendon Gallacher

brendon wordle

Casehistory: Alison (Head Injury)

casehistory wordle

Checking out me History

checking wordle

The Clown Punk

clown wordle


medusa wordle

Les Grands Seigneurs

seigneurs wordle