The Dreamcatcher

poem by Niamh O’Meara , illustrated by Rosemary Fung

Learning Intention:

I am learning how a poet uses repetition and imagery so that I can visualise a poem and assess illustrations made by others.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify language forms and features in a poem.
  • I can verbally explain the images created by these language forms and features.
  • I can compare the mental image I created to the published illustration of a poem.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how the knowledge of a text’s genre creates audience expectation can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Genre.

More information about an author’s comparison of objects to create figurative meaning can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Guiding Question:

How do images contribute to texts fitting a genre?

Read the poem to the class, or if you have a digital subscription play the recording. Only display the text and conceal Rosemary Fung’s illustration. After reading, to aid comprehension, ask the following questions:

  • Who is the character in the poem? (The Dreamcatcher)
  • Where is he? (A ‘murky dark lake’)
  • When is it set? (Nighttime, as he ‘sleeps through the heat of the day’ and in hot weather as there is a ‘soft summer breeze’)
  • What is he doing? (Catching dreams, both nightmares – ‘keeps all our terrors at bay’ – and pleasant ones – ‘catches our wishes’)
  • What does he look like? (Students might connect his appearance to that of a wizard: ‘a beard that falls down to his boots’, ‘rag-man cloak and old fisherman’s boots’)

Ensure that students have a deep understanding of the narrative of the poem: a wizard-like man sails a boat down a murky dark late throughout the night. He catches the dreams and nightmares that are trapped in the dandelion weeds. At the end of the poem, at sunrise, he sleeps.

Ask students what genre this poem belongs to, in terms of its literary content. Students should recognise that this is a fantasy poem based on the setting, appearance of the main character, mention of mythical beasts and inclusion of magic.

Explain the task to students: they will be creating their own illustration of the poem, based on the visual images created by the language techniques.

The first step is that they must reread the poem with a focus on key language forms and features. This includes the repetition of the noun group ’the murky dark lake’ and the use of imagery in quotations:

‘He sails through the stories we weave

and he catches our wishes on dandelion weeds’.

Ask students to consider the mental image created by these language forms and features. Students should explain how they see the image of the lake in their mind and how they would visualise a story woven into a blanket and a wish trapped in a white dandelion blossom. Once students have discussed their mental visualisations, they individually synthesise these images into one overall illustration for the poem. Students may wish to conduct a gallery walk to critically engage with the representations created by their peers.

After completing their original illustration, they will self-assess whether it fits the audience’s expectations of a fantasy text. Create a class criteria of patterns in the fantasy genre (including some of the features discussed above). You may wish to show students a range of fantasy images through a search engine such as Flickr Creative Commons to assist in the depth of student responses. If you have a digital subscription, a deep dive into a fantasy image can be done as the interactive activity Find the Fantasy Features.

Finally, reveal the official illustration of the poem by Rosemary Fung. Ask students to assess the illustration on two points:

  1. Does the illustration match their expectations for what an image in the fantasy genre should look like?
  2. Does the image represent the language techniques used in the poem in a similar way to themselves, or has the illustrator visualised the poem in a completely different way?