Chess Nut

poem by Charles Ghigna , illustrated by Dante Hookey

Learning Intention:

I am learning how visual representations of poetry can deepen readers' understanding of the themes so that I can consider how to visually represent abstract ideas from texts.


Success Criteria:

  • I can share my visual ideas of a poem’s theme with a partner
  • I can select a poem that matches my choice of theme
  • I can create an illustration that visually represents the poem and theme I have selected.


Essential knowledge:

Prior to reading the text, watch the video What is Chess to ensure all students have a basic understanding of what the game of chess is and what pieces are involved. The School Magazine’s video Theme may be used for guidance on identifying the themes in a text.



Without showing students the magazine, read the poem Chess Nut aloud. Write the words ‘night’ and ‘knight’ on the board and ask students which one they think is used in the last line. They may initially assume that it is ‘night’ due to the way ‘day’ is used in the same line, however they should conclude with context clues that it is actually ‘knight’ and refers to the chess playing piece. Students should determine that this line implies that it can take a long time to move one piece on the chessboard.


Discuss what this implication tells the reader about chess. Answers may include:

  • It is a complex game
  • There may be many strategic options for players to consider
  • Players may need to assess which piece is best to use
  • Players are able to take their time to consider their next move while their opponent waits.


Ask students what kind of imagery this poem creates for them. Answers are likely to revolve around chess boards and knights.  Ask students to examine the text further so that they can identify that overall, the author is referring to the patience required to actually play chess.


Understanding text:

Discuss the difficulty in demonstrating concepts such as time and patience through illustration. Reread the poem and give students time to sketch what they visualise when they listen to the poem. Have them swap their sketches with a partner and discuss the choices they’ve made to visually demonstrate the time and patience it takes to play chess.

Show the magazine illustration to the class. Ask students to identify details the artist has used to demonstrate these concepts. Answers may include:

  • A snail is usually symbolic of being slow
  • The snail’s opponent has fallen asleep among its chess pieces
  • The spider has had time to weave a web and fall asleep on top of it
  • The other spectators have also fallen asleep, further indicating how long the game has taken so far.


Discuss students’ thoughts on the illustration’s effectiveness in visually demonstrating the theme of patience within the specific context of the poem.


Creating text:

Explain that students will be creating their own illustration to visually represent a poem’s theme. Display the list of abstract nouns from the NSW Department of Education and have students choose a theme from this list. They should then find a poem to match their theme either using poetry books from the library or classroom, or online sources such as The Children’s Poetry Archive. Once students have selected their poem, they should sketch some ideas on how to visually represent its theme. Students should publish their piece by writing out their chosen poem and drawing their final illustration.


Assessment for/as learning:

In your own words discuss either independently or in small groups, how applying a visual representation to a poem assisted in comprehending the deeper meaning of a poem.

How did this strategy help?