The Chicken or the Egg

poem by Catherine Oehlman , ‘Eggs’ by Stylva is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to understand and interpret poetic devices so that I can experiment with the form of shape poetry.

Success Criteria:

  • I can recognise and explain what a shape poem is.
  • I can explain why a poet chooses to write their poem as a shape.
  • I can experiment with the form by writing my own shape poems.

Essential knowledge:

More information about creating imagery through figurative language can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotations, Imagery and Symbol.

If you have a digital subscription, play the audio recording of the poem on The School Magazine website. Alternatively, read the poem aloud to the class. Do not display the poem yet. Ask students to imagine how the poem could be presented in The School Magazine and let them mock up a possible design (the text of the poem and the accompanying illustration).

After students have predicted the layout, show students the poem. Use the following prompts to guide discussion:

What do you notice about the layout? (The poem is in the shape of an egg)

Do you know what these types of poems are called? (Shape or concrete poems)

Have you seen poems like this before?

What are some other shapes that would make a good poem? (Answers may include: an ice cream, a bird, a tornado).

Write down the suggested shapes to refer back to later in the activity.

Show students the DK Find Out! page on Shape Poems. Focus on the sentence: “The shape adds meaning to the poem”. Then read the example poem about a tornado. Ask students to explain how the shape enhances the meaning of the poem. (Interpretations may include: your eyes dart around to read the poem, the words appear a little messy and jumbled up, the final lines in the poem are much shorter and reveal how everything is calming down.)

Return to the poem “The Chicken or the Egg”. Ask students to now consider how the shape enhances the meaning of this poem. (Interpretations may include: it is a closed circle which suggests that the whole story has been told, the poem illustrates the circle of life, the poem shows there is no clear answer to the idiom “the chicken or the egg”.)

Finally, using the class list of shapes that inspire a poem (generated above), students write their own shape poem.

To scaffold the task, first ask students to list as many words and phrases that they can that link to their topic. Then instruct them to write the poem normally. Finally, they experiment with their poem by arranging it into the shape’s outline. Remind students that a shape poem should be short: 6 – 12 lines.

A class collection of shape poems would make an excellent display.