Mermaid Wishes

poem by Elenore Byrne , illustrated by Dante Hookey

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify the techniques used to convey ideas in poetry so that I can make connections between the texts I read and the world around me.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify common ideas relating to nature in poetry
  • I can analyse the impact of different poetic devices
  • I can compare poems written by different poets and make connections between them


Essential knowledge:

View the Connotation, imagery and symbol video, starting from 1:53 for an introduction to imagery.


Understanding text:

Ask students to form pairs and answer the following questions.

  • According to the speaker in the poem, who sent the ‘waves that flow in with the tide?’ (Mermaids)
  • According to the speaker in the poem, what does a surfer need to do to get some ‘sea swelling rollers to catch?’ (Whisper a wish)
  • Is this a poem about mermaids, or is this a poem about something else? What natural occurrence is this poem describing? (The poem is about the tides – high and low tide)
  • How does the speaker in the poem explain low tide in the middle of the day?
  • Why do you think that the poet is describing the tides as though they are created by mermaids? (Connecting tides with mermaids gives nature a sense of mythology and readers a feeling of wonder when they think about the natural world around them)


View the video Understanding theme on the NSW Department of Education website.

Discuss as a class:

  • What is the topic of the poem ‘Mermaid Wishes?’ (The tide, mermaids)
  • What is the theme of the poem ‘Mermaid Wishes?’ (The wonder of nature and the natural world. The natural world is so amazing that it seems almost mythical or fantastical)


Assign pairs either the poem ‘Escape’ on page 28 or the poem ‘The Rock Pool’ on pages 10-11 of this issue of The School Magazine.


After reading their assigned poem, pairs work together to complete the following table:

Mermaid wishes Other poem 




Poetic techniques with an example for each.  


Common messages or ideas  



Assessment for/as learning:

Pairs answer these questions, in order to do so they should refer to the information in the table they have just completed.

  • Why are there so many poems written about the natural world?
  • Is there an aspect of the natural world that you feel strongly connected to?
  • If you were writing about your chosen feature of the natural world from the previous question, what message would you like to send to the reader of your poem?