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Five tips for teaching the Poetry Anthology

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Author: Emma Hayward
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Emma is an English teacher at the Netherhall School and blogs as Mrs Hayward at englishwithmrshayward.wordpress.com/. Here she shares her tips on teaching the Eduqas anthology. We are very grateful to Emma for her generosity and hard work, which we are sure will be greatly appreciated by other teachers of our specification.

The look on their faces when you tell them that they have to learn 18 poems by heart and no, sorry, you cannot take the anthology in with you ... I am often met with comments such as "Miss are you mental?! How are we meant to remember all of these?" and "It's so unfair, I will never remember 18 poems! I barely remember what I had for breakfast!" But as I gaze out at their furrowed brows, I attempt to reassure them that, firstly, they will be surprised how much they will remember and secondly, I promise that I will make it fun enough so that they'll stick in their heads!

If you too are struggling with where to start with this mammoth task, why not check out some of my handy tips below:

1. Get artistic.

When teaching Hawk Roosting, as a way of encouraging the students to select some useful quotations, I asked them to draw the outline of a hawk and fill it with some phrases they could easily memorise. This can be done with all of the poems. Pick something iconic from each poem, and get them to fill it with 3-4 key words or phrases. It takes the pressure off learning quotes and allows the students to be a bit more creative.

2. Do a spot of folding.

When revising quotations it can be useful to also compare themes, ideas and techniques across poems. I asked the students to use one piece of A4 card to create a revision booklet, consisting of a range of quotations from four different nature poems. I gave them a few ideas on how they could do this and it was great to see a range of different results.

3. Go compare!

I actually stole this idea from our friends at Linton VC (cheers guys!) and it's a great document as it has all of the poems in one place and encourages the students to focus on each of the assessment objectives (AOs) when making notes. It also has a useful section for comparisons. I got the students to work in groups to firstly focus on one poem, making them an expert. Then, I sorted them into different groups, consisting of one expert per poem, so that they could share their knowledge and complete the document by working together.

4. Get Colourful.

As a way of getting the students to become more familiar with the AOs, get them to use highlighters to colour code their work. It's a really visual way for them to see if they are hitting them all and if there are any AOs that need a little more focus. This student had acknowledged context (A03) by referring to Keats' awareness of his own mortality, however when live marking his work, I asked him to further consider a more direct link to Romanticism as a way of broadening his answer.

5. Create a handy glossary.

There's no escaping the fact that some of these poems use some quite obscure language. As English teachers, we have a responsibility to extend students' literacy skills and an easy way to do this is by getting them to create their own 'Unfamiliar Words' glossaries. As a starting point, I asked the students to skim through all of the poems and create a list of unfamiliar words, with the homework task of finding the definitions for each. This way, when we come back to studying them later on, the students already have a head start! I've used little red spelling books here, but this could easily be done at the back of their exercise books. A handy little class companion!

So there's five things you can do to get started ... happy anthology teaching!