What is a Poem

poem by Philippa Werry , illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Learning intentions:

I am learning to identify ways that language devices are used in poetry so that I can go beyond literal meanings in my own writing.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify connotations, imagery and symbols in the text and illustration
  • I can recognise the way the author has written each stanza based on one aspect of poetry
  • I can apply the author’s style to my own piece of writing

View the English Textual Concepts video Connotations, Imagery and Symbols, and discuss students’ understanding of the idea. Reiterate that it relates to words extending beyond their literal meaning, and that figurative language may be a way that they are already familiar with these concepts. It may be helpful to use examples such as metaphors (e.g. he cried a river), personification (e.g. the branches danced in the breeze) and similes (e.g. the snow covered the town like a blanket).

Read the poem as a class and ask students to identify words and phrases in the poem that go beyond their literal meaning. These may include:

  • Words on an empty stage
  • Words that shout like a storm in the night
  • Words that like to be stroked by your tongue
  • You’ll find them prowling around in your mind


Ask students to share their own interpretation of those that they identify.

Look at the illustration together and discuss what it may symbolise. Suggestions may include words dancing across the page to a rhythm, or writers bringing their words together in a pattern.

Read the poem again, pausing after each stanza to discuss the way connotations and imagery are used to describe a different aspect of poetry:

Stanza 1 aspect – Structure

The way that the words of poems fit together and form a pattern to create a new piece of writing (pattern, fresh new page, choir, empty stage).

Stanza 2 aspect – Rhythm

The way the words create different rhythms depending on how they are put together (slither, skip, slide, wriggle, side to side).

Stanza 3 aspect - Language

The way that individual words can communicate elements such as mood and effect (whisper, tingle, bite, shout, storm in the night).

Stanza 4 aspect – Reading

The way that we read poetry aloud in different ways depending on different factors such as rhythm, tone and language (spoken, sung, stroked with your tongue).

Stanza 5 aspect – Impact

The way that poetry has an impact on us personally and can stick with us after we have read it (leap right off the lines, prowling around in your mind).


Instruct students that they are to choose one aspect of poetry and write a stanza about it in the style of the text using figurative language.