Beware of Dragons

poem by Sandi Leibowitz , illustrated by Jenny Tan

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse language so that I can identify strategies authors use to influence readers.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify the point of view and purpose of a text.
  • I can identify vocabulary used to influence the reader.
  • I can consider a text from an alternate point of view.


Essential knowledge:               

  • Information about point of view can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Point of View.


Before reading the text, brainstorm words and mythology associated with dragons. Sample words include fire, danger, wings, adventure; sample mythology includes that they hoard treasure, they are usually very large, and that people can turn into them (as in the CS Lewis’s Narnia story Voyage of the Dawn Treader). After the brainstorming session, use an Affinity diagram to organise students’ ideas of dragons. Concepts can include description, behaviour and events from specific stories.


As a class, read Beware of Dragons or listen to the audio recording. Display the text on the board or give students copies to study so they can answer the following questions (answers are in brackets):

  • Who does the “our” and “we” in the text refer to? (Dragons)
  • Who are the dragons writing the text for? (Other dragons)
  • Looking at the last stanza, what type of special text could this poem represent? (A dragon’s creed or anthem)
  • What do dragons think of humans? (They are weak and impure)

In pairs, students take a closer look at the text to find evidence that supports this point of view. Instruct them to note down vocabulary and comparisons that portray what dragons think of humans. Model the first one below for the class.


“Cities cold” has a negative connotation, suggesting humans live in desolate, unnatural places. The mention of the cold is especially relevant to dragons, who are associated with heat and fire.


Other answers:

  1. unwooded lands = unnatural deforestation, very negative
  2. dirtied streams = suggests pollution, water is the giver of life and humans have ruined it
  3. may learn to fear = dragons are the dominant apex predator and even learning about them will make humans afraid
  4. sameness of their days = humans live dull, uneventful lives
  5. see their nightmares coming true = humans live in fear of dragons
  6. heroes who will die anew = humans have tried killing dragons before but failed, and new ones who try will also fail, suggesting dragons are the superior species
  7. they know not where = humans are ignorant and don’t know where to find the dragons

Bonus = mention of mountains, mist and caverns, which are natural structures in comparison to cold cities, unwooded lands and dirty streams portrays the idea that dragons are the better creatures


When finished, students compare answers to the rest of the class.


Ask students to consider how the poem might be written if it was from a human’s point of view, specifically a dragon-slayer. Have students give examples of vocabulary they would use if the poem was an anthem for humans instead. Suggested lines:

  • In cities shining/mighty fortresses (instead of cities cold)
  • With industry and science (instead of unwooded land and dirty streams)
  • Learn to hunt (instead of learn to fear)
  • Practise and refine skills (instead of sameness of days)
  • Bravely face the enemy (instead of nightmares coming true)
  • Conquer/Slay the monster (instead of heroes dying anew)