poem by Anne Bell , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning Intention:

I am learning about the history of the word elsewhere so that I can develop a deeper appreciation for the poem.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define the term etymology and describe its significance.
  • I can explain the meaning of the poem.
  • I can construct a short piece of creative writing based on the poem.

Display the title of the poem to the class. Ask students if they have heard of the word ‘elsewhere’ before. Then as a class access the Collins dictionary page for elsewhere and complete a ‘See, Think, Wonder’ learning routine. Potential answers include:

  • See: headings, subheadings, embedded videos, definitions, examples
  • Think: is there a big difference in the way elsewhere is used in U.K English and American English? Do all the examples use elsewhere in a similar way?
  • Wonder: how do I pronounce elles hwǣr? What does ME stand for? If elsewhere is a high frequency word, do I use it regularly?

Explain that dictionaries often include the word origin (also called etymology) of a word. This provides the word’s history and ways that its meaning may have changed over time.

Identify the main etymological features of elsewhere as provided by the Collins Dictionary: it is from before 900CE, also known as the Middle Ages. It has come from the Middle English elleswher¸ which in turn came from the Old English elleshwær. You may want to teach them the Old English pronunciation: ELL-es-w-HAR (the ‘har’ should sound like ‘hat’ but with an ‘r’ instead of a ‘t’).

Explain that the Middle Ages are a common setting for fantasy novels. For example, J. R. R. Tolkien was a university professor in Old English and many of the languages he created for his novels, including Elvish, were based on Old English dialects.

Ask students to think about the word elsewhere again. This time, they should also consider the word origin and history. Students may now notice that the word has a fantastical quality and sounds more poetic and fairylike than many of its synonyms such as absent, away, not here or in a different place.

Read the poem as a class. Discuss its meaning by asking the following questions:

  • Who is the speaker in the poem? (The little girl reading the book.)
  • What is she thinking about? (Why do many people spend a lot of time in Elsewhere and if she should journey there too?)
  • What is unusual about the way that Elsewhere is written? (It has a capital letter and is written like a proper noun.)
  • How has the speaker misunderstood the meaning of Elsewhere and what is the effect? (She thinks that Elsewhere is a place and the way that she describes it makes it sound far away and very exciting).

Link back the message of the poem (the potential excitement of a journey to Elsewhere) with its word origins. Students should connect the mysterious Elsewhere in the poem, with the fantastical elements the word holds.

Finally, ask students to write a descriptive paragraph, construct a story plan or compose a short story about the fictional place ‘Elsewhere’. It should contain mythical creatures, awe-inspiring landscapes and eye-catching buildings. Students should then present their imagined city of Elsewhere to the class.