Change of View

poem by Jennifer Erlanger , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning Intention:

I can understand the use of humour in a poem so that I can discuss how it engages the reader and shapes their response.

Success Criteria:

  • I can recognise the use of incongruity to make a text humorous.
  • I can explain why a poem is incongruous.
  • I can experiment with using incongruity in my own writing.

Essential knowledge:

More information about how an author uses incongruity to create complex meanings can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Before introducing the poem, ask students to listen carefully to the words of the Playschool song: Upsy Downtown. Then ask the following questions:

  • Is this a funny or serious song? (Humorous)
  • Why is the song funny? (It lists a series of scenarios where things are the opposite of how they should be: the sky is in the sea; the fish are where the birds should be.)

Explain to students that this song uses the technique of incongruity to make jokes. Explain that incongruity means something that is out of place or doesn’t make sense. Provide students with synonyms of more familiar vocabulary words such as mismatched, inappropriate, incompatible, absurd and bizarre. They could also complete a Frayer Diagram to consolidate their understanding of the term.

Read ‘Change of View’ a class. Ask students to identify the examples of incongruity. These include trees dangling towards the light, the sky is a giant bowl below and the grass is a roof. Discuss why these examples are humorous. Students may discuss how the imagery of a ‘grassy roof’, or a ‘blue and white bowl’ sounds crazy or absurd and therefore creates a funny mental image.

Display the poem’s concluding lines:

The world looks so amazing

When you’re hanging upside down!

Discuss how these lines relate to the earlier lines of the poem and the incongruity. Students should recognise that these lines reveal that the speaker is hanging from a tree or playground equipment and therefore is seeing the world from a new perspective. By using incongruity, the poet has captured how amazing the world looks from a different angle.

Finally, play ‘Opposite Day’ with students. Explain the rules: they need to think about all the actions they perform on a typical day and then imagine doing the opposite instead. For example, students could wear their uniforms inside out, go to school on a Saturday or eat ice cream for breakfast. Students then write their list of their opposite day actions into a poem, or short story or in groups turn it into a Theatre Sports style drama performance.