poem by Lisa Varchol Perron , illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Learning intention:

I am learning to make connections between the imagery of texts so that I can compare ways different authors represent similar ideas.


Success criteria:                       

  • I can define the term connotation.
  • I can explain the imagery in texts.
  • I can compare two texts with similar ideas.


Essential knowledge:               


Focus question: How does language influence the way the audience interprets a text?


Prior to reading the text, provide students with a Frayer Diagram watch the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbolism up to 1min51sec, where there is an explanation about connotation. Instruct students to write their own definition of connotation in their Frayer Diagram. Sample answer: Connotation is a personal feeling, or an idea attached to a word.


Explain to students that you will be given another word and they are to write on their 2nd Frayer Diagram under “characteristics” how they feel when they hear it. Say the word “robin” and give students time to write their answers. Discuss answers as a class. (Individual answers will vary. Students might say they think of happiness or freedom seeing a little bird. Other students might connect the word Robin to a person with that name.)

Read the poem Robin or listen to the audio recording. Give students time to examine the illustration. Ask students whether the poet is evoking a positive or negative connotation for the reader (answer: positive) and give evidence from the text. Answers include the use of the words friend, nibble, quiet and calm; the fact that the robin and the narrator play together; the connection of the narrator’s family (grandparents) with the bird. Explain to students that the poet’s decision to use the word tend when describing how the grandparents look after the garden is also a positive word, as it suggests kindness and care.


Read the following extracts from The Secret Garden out loud to the class. They are from Chapter 7 and Chapter 8.


His red waistcoat was like satin and he puffed his tiny breast out and was so fine and so grand and so pretty that it was really as if he were showing her how important  and like a human person a robin could be.


The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.


Watch the rest of the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbolism. Sort students into pairs and ask them to find similarities and differences between the excerpts from The Secret Garden and Robin, focussing on imagery. Write the following questions on the board for students to answer in their workbooks:

  1. What do both texts compare robins to?
  2. What kind of person might wear a red waistcoat (from The Secret Garden extract)?
  3. What connotations do the words “flitting” and “nibble” evoke?
  4. What kind of personalities do each of the robins portray?


After answering the comprehension questions, students can use graphic organisers such as Venn Diagrams to display their information.


When students are finished, share answers with the class. Sample answers are below.



The word flitting implies the robin is playful and fun, but the word nibble suggests she is gentle.

She likes to play hide and seek with the narrator.

She likes to sit quietly and calmly.


The Secret Garden

The description of the robin in a satin waistcoat makes him sound like a wealthy person.

He is proud and a show-off.



The robins in both texts are playful, happy and compared to people. (Personification)

Both robins play with the narrator in the texts.