A Handle on a Rope Upon a Tree

poem by Stephen Whiteside , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention: 

I am learning to relate my own experiences to the characters and events of a text so that I can practice applying my ideas to different structures of writing. 


Success criteria: 

  • I can identify the structural aspects of a poem. 
  • I can relate my own experiences to the subject of the poem. 
  • I can create a poem about my experiences, following the text structure. 


Essential knowledge: 

More information about how our experiences inform our writing can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Perspective. 


Read the poem, or if you have a digital subscription, listen to the audio recording and ask students to pay attention to: 

  • The rhythm of the poem (each line has 14 syllables). 
  • The rhyme scheme of the poem (two consecutive lines rhyming - AA BB CC etc.) 
  • The language of the poem (simple, straightforward, descriptive etc.) 
  • The subject of the poem (finding a way to cool down in summer using their surroundings). 


Discuss these factors, as well as the way imagery is created in the poem by the author’s descriptions of: 

  • Where they live (e.g. We’re in a little country town. A river wanders through). 
  • What the weather is like (e.g. And when the day is hot and sunny). 
  • Actions they take (e.g. Around a branch we tie a rope and from that rope we leap). 
  • How they interact (And all take turns to see which one can make the biggest splash). 


Discuss the way the author writes not just about swimming in the river, but also about the fun activity the friends participate in there, and the way that they do it. Ask students to think about ways they keep cool in summer and how their surroundings influence that. Students own experiences may include taking turns to jump off a diving board at the local pool, snorkeling at the beach or running through the sprinklers in their backyard.  

Instruct students to create a plan for their poem by writing a list of things about their own experiences. From this list they should find rhyming opportunities (e.g. float / boat, sun / fun, swim / brim). The website Rhyme Zone can be used to assist with finding rhyming words.  

Inform them that their poems should follow the general structure of the text by keeping the same rhyme scheme and ensuring each line has the same number of syllables (it does not need to be the same as the text, but consistent within their poem). 


Create a class poem on the board based on the discussion, or model an example such as: 

We live in a seaside town, though surfing can be tough 

The beach is near our house but the waves are just too rough 

We do have a long blue lake though, which is much more calm 

It runs all the way from the beach to our grandad’s farm 

On hot days, we get ice blocks and wander to the dock 

We step off the wooden planks and onto a flat rock 

We jump into the water with our big floating chairs 

And link our arms together to drift along in pairs 

We laugh and splash each other and throw around the ball 

And have chair spinning contests to see who’s last to fall 

Summer in our seaside town is not so hard to take 

Though the beach is much too rough, we love our long blue lake 


Once students have written a draft of their own poem, they should publish and illustrate it to be displayed in the classroom