On a Stormy Pier

poem by Claire Saxby , illustrated by Matt Ottley

Learning intention: 

I am learning to investigate how vocabulary choices, including evaluative language can express shades of meaning, feeling and opinion so that I can include evaluative language in my own writing.   

Success criteria:  

  • I can sort sentences into those that feature information that is factual and those that focus on opinion and feeling. 
  • I can identify evaluative language in statements of feeling and opinion. 
  • I can discuss evaluative language in a poem, suggesting ideas for alternative ways for characters to be feeling.  
  • I can compose sentences that feature evaluative language. 
  • I can include evaluative language in a poem.  

Essential knowledge:  

Ensure students are aware that the term ‘evaluative language’ refers to positive or negative language used to express opinions and feelings when making a judgment about something.   

Ensure students understand evaluative language reveals the writer’s opinion about a topic. Discuss the difference between language used to express opinions and feelings (often evaluative language) with factual statements. Ensure students conclude factual statements are provable whereas opinions and feelings are personal and relate to how people think and feel.  

Learning resource: 

Provide students with a list of sentences. Inform students that they will be sorting them into sentences relating to factual statements and those relating to feelings and opinions. Discuss the first few together and sort them into groups of those that are purely factual and those that express feelings and opinions.   

  • Australia is a country in the South Pacific. (Factual statement as it can be verified by multiple sources)  
  • Australia is the friendliest country in the world. (Expresses an opinion, using evaluative language, such as the abstract noun ‘friendliest’ to communicate a judgement) 
  • Bananas are the most delicious fruit. (Expresses an opinion, using evaluative language ‘most delicious’) 
  • Bananas grow on trees. (Factual statement as it can be verified by multiple sources) 
  • Bananas are disgusting. (Expresses an opinion, using evaluative language ‘disgusting’)  
  • I find bananas creepy (expresses a feeling, using evaluative language ‘creepy’)  
  • Australia’s beaches are the best in the world. (Expresses an opinion, using evaluative language ‘best’) 
  • Australia is home to many famous beaches. (Factual statement as it can be verified by multiple sources)  

For example, discuss language that reveals whether the information is factual or whether it is based on feelings/opinions. Ensure students identify evaluative language in each statement. Responses to this question have been provided above. 

Inform students that they will now be using what they have learnt to analyse the poem, on a Stormy Pier, and the illustration that accompanies it.  

First, refer students to the illustration. Analyse the image using the following questions to guide discussions:  

  • What can be seen? (a pier, waves, spray from the ocean, seagulls, footprints) 
  • What do the seagulls appear to be doing? (Looking out to the ocean, away from the pier) 
  • How might the actions of the seagulls be interpreted? (Viewers might infer the seagulls are looking out to sea, watching the weather, or looking for food) 

Read the poem, On a Stormy Pier. Discuss examples of opinions in the poem. Sample responses include:  

We scuttle sideways 

Seagulls hunker. 

Only seals smile. 

Discuss which word in the first example enables readers to infer how the narrator is feeling in the storm (scuttle). Discuss what this word reveals (that the narrator was moving carefully to battle against the weather).  

Draw students' attention to the examples relating to the seagulls and the seals. Discuss the evaluative language used in reference to each of these creatures. Ensure students note that the poet has made a judgment about how both the seagulls and the seals are feeling. Highlight that the poet does this using language such as ‘hunker’ to describe the seagulls which causes readers to infer they are sheltering from the weather and ‘smile’ to describe the seals which implies they are feeling happy.  

Inform students that these evaluations are based on the poet’s opinions of how the creatures might be feeling and that they could just as easily be feeling something completely different. Discuss alternate ways each of the creatures might be feeling. For example, the seagulls might be delighted at the abundance of fish brought to the surface in the stormy weather while the seals might find swimming in the waves exhausting.  

Those with a digital subscription can complete the interactive activity, that allows students to hover over the image and examine examples of ideas, before constructing sentences featuring evaluative language.  

Inform students that they will be experimenting with composing a poem which features examples of evaluative language.  

View an image of a pier on a sunny day, for example the photo Beautiful Cat Resting on the Pier of the Lake at Sunset.  

Discuss how the cat in the photo might be feeling. Provide examples such as ‘relaxed’ or ‘calm’. 

Place students in pairs or small groups and instruct them to discuss their opinions about how each of the cats might be feeling.  

Once students have had time to share their ideas, discuss responses. Collaboratively compose statements featuring evaluative language using the students’ ideas. Sample ideas have been provided below.  

The cat is in a contemplative mood as it watches the waves lap softly against the pier. 

The cat is feeling peaceful enjoying the last of the sun’s rays as it rests after a busy day of catching mice.  

After compiling the statements, collaboratively include these in a poem about the pier at sunset. Discuss ideas for a title, for example The Pier at Sunset. Refer back to On a Stormy Pier to emphasise that the poet chose not to use rhyme in the poem. Inform students that the focus here is on including evaluative language. For example: 

At sunset the water is at rest,  

It laps softly against the pier.  

A cat watches on,  

As it soaks up the last of the sun’s rays. 

After a day of work the cat is at rest,  

Contemplating a night spent relaxing on laps, 

Once their owner returns home. 

Instruct students to work in their pairs/small groups, composing statements about the image of the pier at sunset that feature evaluative language. Once students have composed their statements ask them to include these in a brief poem.  

Allow time for students to work on their poems before sharing them with another pair/group.