My Shoes

poem by Stephen Whiteside , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Focus question:

How are perspectives and contexts presented to an audience through poems?


Learning Intention:

I can identify the words, language features and structures of a poem so that I can understand a model poem and then write my own based on the model text.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify unknown words and decipher the meaning.
  • I can locate and select relevant information about a text for analysis.
  • I can discuss the meaning of a poem, using evidence to support my ideas.
  • I can plan and write my own poem based on the model text.

Essential knowledge:

View the English Textual concepts Perspective video.

For more information about teaching figurative language, take a look at the Reading - Literary Devices resource on the NSW Department of Education website.



Read the poem as a class or listen to the recording if you have a digital subscription. As students listen to the poem being read, ask them to underline any words that they do not know. (Sample words might include strewn, pitiless, scud)

Students are to work with a partner to guess what each of the unknown words mean based on the phrase or sentence it belongs to in the poem. Once they have made a guess, students can use a dictionary to discover the meaning of the word.

Engage students in a class discussion based on the following question:

  • Were you able to guess the meaning of the unknown word correctly? If so, how did you do it?


Understanding text:

Have students annotate the poem using the following prompts:

  • Look at the first stanza, highlight the obstacles the speaker in the poem faces (Way ahead strewn with stones, pitiless sun, dark grey clouds, risk of burn or bruise)
  • Label the rhyming pattern for the first stanza (AABBCCDD)
  • Is the rhyming pattern the same in the second stanza?
  • Label each stanza with the setting (Stanza 1: day, stanza 2: night)
  • Look at the second stanza, highlight all the comforts the speaker in the poem feels in this stanza (sheet and blankets, pillow, snuggly bed)


As a class discuss the following questions:

  • How does the speaker feel about their shoes in the daytime? (They are grateful for their shoes in the daytime)
  • How does the speaker feel about their shoes in the nighttime? (They are happy to not wear their shoes in bed at night).
  • Why do they feel differently about their shoes at different times of day (a different context)? (In the daytime, the shoes protect the speaker from harm, at nighttime, the speaker simply wants a comfortable night sleep and does not need the shoes anymore)
  • How does the mood of the poem change from the first stanza to the second? Why do you think the poet chose to do this? (The first stanza provides a dramatic and tense atmosphere; the second stanza is calm and peaceful. The change in mood reflects the change in the setting. At night, in bed the speaker is cosy and calm without their shoes)


Creating text:


Have students create their own poem about an object and when/where it is useful. Complete the following steps:

  • Students complete the following table to brainstorm ideas for the subject of their poem. They list objects that are useful only in that particular scenario. Suggested answers can be found in the columns below.
Daytime Nightime At the beach In Winter At School
  • Students choose a subject for their poem from their brainstorm. They write a two-stanza poem where the subject is useful/necessary in the first stanza, and then not required in the second stanza. Encourage students to develop the setting/context of each stanza to show why the item is needed or not needed.
  • Students should start each stanza with ‘When…’ Students can also use an altered version of the final line for each stanza.


Assessment for/as learning:

Have students complete a self-assessment of their engagement in the lesson using the criteria below. They can tick the box that best applies to each statement. The With 1 being ‘I’m still unsure’, 2 being ‘I understood’ and 3 being ‘I aced it.’

Statement 1 2 3
I can work out the meaning of unknown words
I can find examples of different language features in a poem
I can talk about the meaning of a poem with my classmates
I can plan and write my own poem