Troublesome Robot

poem by Janeen Brian , illustrated by Niña Nill

Learning intention:

I am learning to use comprehension strategies to make inferences about texts I read.

Success criteria:

  • I can make inferences about the character and narrator in a poem.
  • I can identify reasons why writers may encourage readers to make incorrect inferences.
  • I can compose a poem where readers are encouraged to make incorrect inferences.

Display the first two stanzas of Troublesome Robot, without allowing students to read the final two. Discuss inferences made about the robot and the narrator of the poem. Most likely students will conclude the robot in the poem is an actual robot and that the narrator is a human.

Display the final two stanzas of Troublesome Robot and read them with the students. Discuss students interpretations about the identity of the robot and the narrator now that they have read the whole poem. Ensure students correctly conclude that the robot is actually a human and the narrator is from Mars.

Discuss how students earlier inferences made the conclusion of the poem more surprising. Display the following questions and discuss:

  • What impact did initially misleading readers about the identity of the robot and the narrator have on readers? (e.g. it made the ending surprising and engaging)
  • Why might the poet have chosen to play with expectations? (e.g. to make the poem unexpected and unique)

Inform students that they will be experimenting with composing a poem that invites readers to make incorrect inferences before revealing the truth.

Discuss narrators that could be surprising and provide a unique point of view. Jot ideas on the board for students to refer to later. Sample responses include:

  • A chef eating their own food
  • A teacher studying their own lesson
  • A parent trying to encourage themselves to complete a task

Select one of these ideas, for example a parent trying to encourage themselves to complete a task. Inform students that they’ll need to imply the person who doesn’t wish to complete their chores is a child before revealing it is a parent. Discuss reasons why someone may not want to complete their chores: they’re tired, the work is boring, they’d rather read a book.

Collaboratively compose a brief poem where readers are encouraged to make incorrect inferences initially. Refer back to the poem to identify the rhyming pattern, ensuring students note that the second and fourth lines rhyme in each stanza. Instruct students to follow this pattern when composing their poems. Students may like to list rhyming words for key vocabulary or use a rhyming dictionary to help them with this. Tell students that they will need to wait until the final stanza to reveal the true identity of the narrator. A sample poem is:

After school I want to lie,

And read upon my bed,

They say I have to do my chores,

The words swirl in my head.


Why do they not understand,

That there’s no fun in chores,

If only they would realise,

Cleaning up is a bore.


And suddenly it’s dinnertime,

My kids begin to swarm,

They don’t see their poor tired mum,

Does not want to conform.


And so I drag my heels,

And rustle up some food,

But more cleaning up awaits,

This really is so rude.


Place students in small groups or pairs and instruct them to compose a poem following the same criteria as above. Once students have composed their poems match them with another pair or group. Tell the students to read the beginning of their poems to the other group without reading the final stanza that reveals the true narrator. Instruct those listening to make inferences about the identity of the narrator before the students presenting their poem read its ending.