Behind the Door

poem by Jenny Erlanger , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intention: 

I am learning to recognise the importance of word choice in a text so that I can develop imagery in my writing. 

Success criteria: 

  • I can identify examples of hyperbole, exaggeration and
  • I can identify metaphors and explain how they are used in imagery.
  • I can create my own sentences using metaphors and exaggeration.


Essential knowledge:

As this lesson focuses on imagery it is essential that all children have a shared understanding of what imagery is, when discussing literature. To ensure that all children have the same knowledge of this topic what the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol . Further consolidate this knowledge by explaining to children “Imagery invites an interpretation of an idea by engaging our senses (sight, smell, touch, sound and taste) and this may evoke an emotional reaction.” (English Textual concepts

Teacher tells the children, they are going to explore the poem Behind the Door, through the technique of visualisation.

Explain to the class that the poem is broken up into four stanzas. 

Children are encouraged to either listen to the teacher read each stanza aloud while closing their eyes or resting with their heads down, so they aren’t distracted by the environment around them. The focus should be on identifying the images that are conveyed in their mind whilst listening to the poem being read aloud.

After each stanza, the teacher allows time for children to sketch what they visualised whilst listening to the poem. Encourage children to record each of these visualisations.

Students can compare their sketch, with the person sitting next to them. These stimulus questions may act as prompts for discussion. 

  • What words from the poem helped form your image? (blood oozes, spiders the size of bowling balls, stony tomb, beyond the door. Please enter…if you dare)
  • What feeling, mood or tone that you think the author was trying to create? (Scared of the unknown, frightening, unsettling)

Explain that the words a poet chooses in their poem are very important as poetry is such a shortened, compact form of writing. A poet uses a variety of devices to increase the power of their words and create imagery, feelings and connection with the reader. 

Literary devices in this poem include figures of speech such as metaphors and exaggeration in which a word or phrase is applied to a subject that is not literally possible. An author’s word choice will develop imagery with the use of these literary devices, defined by the mirriam-webster dictionary and literary devices site. 

Ask students to identify strong word choices from the poem that create imagery. 

Record the examples the students identified within the poem. Draw the connection between the vivid word choice and the students visualisations.

Now it’s your turn:  

As a class, use a writing visual prompt, or a suitable image that re-creates the spooky feeling that the poem depicted. Model the construction of each of the four types of literary devices discussed so far.

Examples include 


Describe something in the image in a way that is not literally possible. 

For example, the pumpkins laughed, or the bat was the size of an aeroplane 


An exaggerated claim that can’t be taken literally. 

For example, the tree branches reached out to people walking past. 


A statement that is too strong, exaggerated and is not completely possible. 

For example, there has never been a mist that was this cold and thick 


A statement that presents something that is better or worse than it really is. 

For example, when I opened the door, the room had the worst smell on earth 


Explain to the students now that they have seen several examples modelled for them they are going to create imagery using metaphors, and exaggeration, hyperbole and overstatement. Teacher can supply the children with several examples which they can develop their literacy devices from. Allow children to select which image they are going to work with. Students can choose to work in pairs or independently. To aid in differentiation, some children may benefit from continued guided work with the teacher.