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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Poetry Lesson Plan (upper KS2/KS3) - JEALOUSY

Much of what I do in schools focuses on emotional literacy - writing about feelings and emotions, and describing sometimes difficult experiences. The following workshop idea concerns one of the most pernicious and pervasive of negative emotions, and one which I myself often struggle with: jealousy. It is designed to encourage students to be open with their feelings and experiences, and at the same time to explore some extremely rich poetic imagery.

Warm Up

Students each write a list of at least three people they are, or have been, jealous of. It is important that they know that they will not have to share this list, and that they are not writing a poem yet. In order to spark off some ideas, the teacher can encourage students to think of friends, brothers, sisters, bullies, etc. I have in the past included 'celebrities' in this list, but I have found that this can lead to some fairly facile work, so I'd encourage pupils to stick to people they know, or are acquainted with, personally. The teacher can also share with students their own list (mine consists of my brother, my sister, and 'other poets'!)

Competition Time

The poem 'The Jealous Ones' by Jacob Sam-La Rose - reproduced at the end of this post - contains some wonderfully rich figurative language. Read the poem out, then supply students with copies of it, one between two. Students need to work in pairs to identify all the metaphors and similes in the poem. There are loads - I think I counted seventeen! The pair to identify the most are the 'winners' and as such are entitled to universal acclaim, adoration, and maybe a small prize.

Metaphor & Simile Creation

After the competition, a complete list of Jacob Sam-La Rose's metaphors and similes can be displayed on the board, followed by a discussion about which ones the students like best, and why. The students are then challenged to come up with their own similes and metaphors - at least one of each, ideally - to describe JEALOUSY. These sentences starters may be helpful:

Jealousy feels like...
Jealousy looks like...
Jealousy is like...
Jealousy is...

Poem Time

Using the ideas generated thus far, students write poems on the theme of Jealousy. They could either write about a TIME they got jealous, or a PERSON they are jealous of. They should aim to include at least one of the metaphors/similes they have generated. In class I would normally model this activity by sharing a poem of mine with the students. (If anyone is particularly interested in seeing this poem they can get in touch.)
The following sentence starters may prove helpful in sparking off ideas in the students:

It felt like...
I hate it when...
Why are you...
I couldn't tell anyone that...
Nobody knows that...
Everyone always...

Students do not have to mention the person by name. In fact, depending on the dynamic within the class, they could even be requested not to. The result of the session, hopefully, will be some heartfelt and revealing poetry with a nice dose of interesting figurative language. Which brings me to the great poem 'The Jealous Ones' mentioned earlier:

The Jealous Ones by Jacob Sam-La Rose (published in Michael Rosen's A-Z: The Best Children's Poetry From Agard To Zephaniah (Puffin 2009))

Don’t look over your shoulder. We’re coming soon
with hungry hands that reach and snap like jaws,
fingers like sharp teeth. We want what’s yours

and will not stop until we’ve pulled it down,
until it’s stung by sticks or stones, until it’s useless
as a juicy toffee apple stamped into the dirt.

And all because we can. Because your happiness itches
under our skins. And when we have it, teathered, leashed,
we’ll roll over ourselves, each of us wanting to be the one

to burst your bright red bubble. But for now we’ll wait
in shadows, watching. You’ll feel our eyes on your back.
And when we come for you, you’ll hear us,

baying at your pride and joy – the way it floats
beyond us – we’ll howl across the distance
as if it were a fat, red, candied moon.