Egret with Attitude

poem by Jenny Blackford , illustrated by David Legge

Learning Intention: 

I am learning about how personification is used in poetry so that I can experiment with imagery in my own writing. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can define the term personification and assign human character traits to different types of animal behaviour.  
  • I can recognise examples of personification in a poem.  
  • I can create my own examples of personification based on animal behaviour in a nature documentary clip. 

Essential knowledge: 


Prior to reading, define the term personification: attributing human characteristics to non-human things, animals or feelings. You may wish to provide students with a list of examples.  The YouTube Clip: Funny Talking Animals | Walk On The Wild Side – BBC provides a humorous look at personification. 

Show students the YouTube clip: Great Egret Hunting Frogs. After watching the clip, as a class generate a list of ways to personify this bird. This could be done through using different brainstorming categories, such as:  

  • Type of human: fisherman, hunter, cowboy with a lasso 
  • Similes: stands still like a mime 

After creating the class list of ways to personify an egret, read the poem aloud. Ask students to identify examples of personification used to personify the egret (the personified words and phrases are underlined): 

  • bent with the elegancy of aristocracy 
  • it almost said, and lowered its lordly neck. 
  • skillful on its stilts. 

Discuss the effect of this personification: the egret sounds as if they are a knight or general in the army as they are described as aristocratic and like a lord. This also suggests that they are sure of themselves and intimidating.  

Differentiation: discuss the other character in this poem, the ‘frog defender’. Are they human, or a frog? Explain to students that personification makes this ambiguous and find examples which could describe human behaviour, or a frog who’s behaviour bears similarities to a human (‘waved long anxious arms’; ‘Too civilised to shout at wildlife / the frog defender ran as close as she dared’).  

Finally, explain to students that they will experiment personification by coming up with their own examples.  

Students should create independent sentences with examples of personification. As an extension, they could also experiment with enjambment to create free verse poetry about their animal.