Strategy and Challenges for Teaching Poem at Secondary Level
We all understand the challenges of teaching poetry in ELT classrooms, a point that Kent Grosh addresses from a broader perspective about education in this issue. But if we are able teach well, poetry can add an important aspects to our students’ language skills, including understanding metaphors, connotations, symbolic meanings, and so on. In this entry, Mabindra Regmi shares a lesson plan for teaching a particular poem. – Ed.
(in reference to the poem “A Girl” by Ezra Pound)
– Mabindra Regmi
by Ezra Pound
The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast-
The branches grow out of me, like arms.
Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
And all this is folly to the world.
Challenges for a teacher
A Girl by Ezra Pound is a product of what is called imagist movement in modern poetry. The preference is given to the picture that the poem portrays rather than the meaning. There could be many challenges that the teacher can face while teaching this type of poem.
One of the complications that the teacher might face while teaching the poem “A Girl” by Ezra Pound will be the structure of the poem itself for it does not follow standard metric stanzas. The lack of stanzas is perhaps deliberate as the whole poem centered to the page looks like a picture of a tree. This is one of the qualities that a imagist poet aspires for- to give the poem form of the topic under discussion.
Since the poem is created in order to paint a picture of the poet’s expression, it will be very difficult for the teacher to come to a singular conclusion as to what the poem might mean. Nonetheless, it does not affect the beauty and the creativity of the text and the profound impact that it will inevitably have on the reader. The teacher has to be careful not to ladle preconceived meaning for this poem, but encourage the students to come up with their own interpretations. It is also advisable not to consider any of the interpretations as totally wrong.
Literary criticism permeates any literary text. Many a times, it is the text itself that draws onto one or the other type of literary criticism. Even if the theories are not explicitly discussed in a secondary school literature classroom, certain inferences are unavoidable. Because “A Girl” is a poem of post modern times, it can be safely assumed to be critically appreciated through the lens of post-modernism in literature. But again, post-modernism is not a clear cut literary theory and the resulting explanation will retain some of the ambiguities and the surrealisms that post-modernism theoretical explanations propagate.
A Lesson plan for teaching the poem
Draw a picture of a tree and a picture of a girl side by side on a blank piece of paper.
Read the poem “A Girl” by Ezra Pound. Look at the drawings that you have made. Now consider the questions below.
- Does the poem evoke a sense of comparison between a girl and a tree?
- How is the tree compared to a girl?
Make two columns and list down the words related to a tree and those related to a girl.
A Poem can be interpreted in many different ways. Read the poem once again. What do you think is the poet trying to say in this poem?
There are many metaphors used in this poem. Can you make a list of them?
Lesson Plan: Teacher’s Copy
“A Girl” by Ezra pound
Talk about pictures and paintings and how they might be similar to poems.
Ask the students to draw a picture of a tree and a picture of a girl and ask them to compare and see if there are any similarities.
Discuss and preteach the following vocabulary:
sap moss violet
Metaphors are devices used in writing poems or any other form of literature where comparison is made between two things which have some similarities but are essentially different. There is no use of comparing words like “like” or “as”.
He is a dog.
In the sentence above, (he) is compared with a (dog).
Ask the students to create metaphors for another object or person. Since a girl was used as the subject of the topic, you can use a boy instead to create some metaphors.
Suggested activities in the lesson plan
Few activities have been suggested in the lesson plan for teaching the poem “A Girl” by Ezra pound.
Activity 1: Scene setting
Setting the scene for the matter to be taught will enable the students to activate the schema and in turn, it will make the comprehension of the subject matter easier to comprehend. Here, as a scene setting activity, the teacher is suggested to talk about how there are similarities between text of poems and pictures. Moreover, words can also be an effective means to express picture-like representations. As an imagist poem, “A Girl” also paints a picture of a comparison between a girl and a tree.
The teacher can further ask the students to draw a picture of a tree and a picture of a girl and try to see if there are any similarities that exist between them. The students can work individually, in pairs or in groups and give a short presentation on what kind of similarities that they have found.
Activity 2: Preteach vocabulary items
Although the vocabulary items presented in the selected poem are reasonably simple and most of the words can be understood by the students of secondary level, it is a good idea to discuss some of the items so that the students will have a complete comprehension of the poem that they are reading. Here, three words sap, moss and violet are referred for consideration for discussion. Of course the list can be contracted or extended based upon the cognitive knowledge of the students regarding vocabulary.
It is suggested that the vocabulary items are discussed in contextual and context free manner regarding the poem. The words might have been used in a different way in the poem as it so often happens while studying poetry. The students should have a clear concept of what the words mean in the poem before they start reading.
Activity 3: Reading and comprehension
Ask the students to read the text of the poem, preferably aloud. Ask them to answer the comprehension check questions given at the end. This will enable the students to get a basic gist of the poem and what it is trying to say.
Activity 4: Vocabulary used for comparison in the poem
There are different words used to describe the tree and to describe the girl. Ask the students to make a list of these words so that they can get an idea how these two unlikely items are compared using more or less equal number of words.
Activity 5: Finding the metaphors
One of the figurative devices used in this poem is metaphors. After explaining what metaphors are, the students can be assigned to make a list of all the metaphors used to compare the girl with a tree.
Activity 6: Creating Metaphors
After the students are familiar with the concept of metaphors, they can be asked to create some metaphors of their own. Here, the students are asked to create metaphors for a boy since the poem deals with metaphors dealing with a girl.