My Grandmother's Hands

poem by Jessica Nelson , illustrated by Matt Ottley

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse language features so that I can identify ways authors influence readers.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify analogy and its effect.
  • I can identify repetition and its effect.
  • I can explain how an author uses imagery and vocabulary to influence the reader.


Essential knowledge:

  • More information about thematic statements can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Theme.


After reading the poem as a class, view the English Textual Concepts video Theme and ask students what they think the theme of the poem is. Answers may include:

  • It is worthwhile listening to stories of older generations
  • Older generations have many stories to share if you’ll listen
  • It is important to hear stories from the older generation, so they are remembered.

Ask how the author has imparted these themes on the reader without using specific words to portray the above themes or telling a story with a character learning a lesson. Ensure students understand that language features can be used to influence readers.

Ask students what language features they can identify in the text.

Students might identify the metaphor:

“Grandmother’s hands are maps to another land”.

Explain that, because of the continued use of description comparing the grandmother’s hands to a map throughout the rest of the poem, it becomes an analogy. Explain that the purpose of an analogy is to explain as well as show the reader.


Ask students why they think the poet chose to connect the idea of the grandmother’s hands with maps to another land?

Answers could include: Hands have lines and bumps like a map,  hands are used to connect people (holding hands, handshake, high five). Or perhaps, gentle, maternal hands have positive connotations.


Ask students to find an example of repetition in the poem (answer, the prefix “un” in unknown, unwhispered, unwrapped, unforgotten). Ask students why the poet might have decided to use this technique, especially when unwhispered isn’t even a real word. Answers could include that repetition drills the idea into the reader’s head or that the first three instances help emphasise the final one, which is on its own line. Ask why unforgotten might be so important. Bring students’ attention back to the themes identified at the beginning of the lesson.


Using the template below, students write two statements – one about the analogy used in the poem, one about repetition. They should use the information discussed during the lesson to complete their answers. Sample answers are below the template.


The poet uses __________________________________ in the text to show _____________________________________________________. This makes the reader feel _______________________________________________.


Sample answers:

The poet uses analogy in the text to show that hands can connect people through history. This makes the reader feel the importance of connecting with stories from their elders.


The poet uses repetition in the text to emphasise that older people’s stories aren’t forgotten. This makes the reader feel a desire to listen to their elders’ stories.