How to Teach 'Interpreting poems' in Form Two

How to Teach 'Interpreting poems' in Form Two

Welcome to UNIT 20.4

PREVIOUSLY: In Unit 20.3, we discussed about the various ways of teaching the sub topic “Interpreting simple stories”  in Form Two.

IN THIS UNIT 20.4, we will cover the sub topic “Interpreting poems” in Form Two.

Sub Topic: Interpreting poems
Periods per sub topic: 10
Class: Form Two

Poems are not difficult. This is the truth. Instead, students use this old notion and some notions from some teachers who erroneously claim that poems are difficult. In most cases, difficulty of the poems comes to our minds only for this wrong perception. The main poetic aspect that convinces us to say poems are difficult is the aspect of language. Of course, poetry uses different language but not difficult one because if we master this poetic language, poems cannot no longer be difficult. Because English language is our instructional language then should master it. By mastering English language we put ourselves in a good position to understand poems effortlessly.
Teaching poems is simple, and if mastered well, poems have strong foundations for students. We all know that poets are good linguists, poets are wise, and poets are great thinkers. Thus, for someone to have this knowledge it is the greatest foundation for him or her.
If you the reader of this blog, the teaching guide for teaching this sub topic is like that we used when introducing Form One Students to the Interpretation of Poems . Thus the teaching guide used here is the same as the one used in Form One previously.
In this sub topic/lesson, the student should be able answer questions from a poem. 
This stage is about the preparation of the teacher before undertaking the lessons of the particular sub topic. These are all activities, procedures, materials, teaching aids, and games prepared by the teacher for teaching a sub topic:
  1. Putting heads together: Introducing the topic/lesson properly. Organising how students will be able to get to know what is the topic/lesson about. It is where teacher makes sure that students are going to be in his/her train. It includes brainstorming and familiarisation of the topic/lesson with the students.
This makes students stay together with the teacher. It is at this stage students can understand what is going to be discussed in the particular topic.
In this sub topic/lesson; the teacher will brainstorm with the students on the definition of poetry, terms used in poetry, why poems are simple and how poems are analysed. In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher will lead the students on the discussion on brainstorming about the poet, poem, verse, stanza, and other poetic terms.
At this stage, the teacher is expected to share with students on the:
The meaning of a poet,
The meaning of Poem,
And other important poetic terms like:
Message, and
A teacher should note that Form I or II Students can only be introduced to these simple poetic terms and not other difficult poetic terms that can be confusing to them rather than educative. When these poetic terms are simply and perfectly introduced, the students can understand the poems well; hence laying other academic foundations.
  1. Preparation of Materials. A teacher has to decide on the teaching/learning materials he/she is going to use.
In this sub topic/lesson, a teacher will have to prepare some selected poems. Teacher will have to prepare some selected poems from various approved texts. These sample poems should be simple and relevant to their level of understanding and age. In this context, some known poems are abridged to meet the simplicity required, but also there are some poems that can be referred.
In this article, my used poems will come from the book of poems (Anthology) called 'Status' written by Charles Mloka.
  1. Target Practice. Show them/Guide them to the practice of the functions of the sub topic. A teacher has to show or guide students to the target practice of the grammatical functions of the sub topic.
The Teacher will guide students to practice how to answer questions from a poem by using various guiding patterns.
In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher will also guide students to practice how to answer questions on a poem read. To do this properly, the teacher will guide students to practice using the following appropriate expressions as they analyse poems:
  • The poet says.....
  • The poem is about...
  • The poet talks about...
  • The title of the poem is....
  • The person speaking in the poem is...
  • Neither.....nor.....
  • The themes of the poem are:
  • The message of the poem is..
  • The poem teaches us that...

  1. Context-Based Practice. A teacher leads students to the discussion on how the target grammatical functions practised earlier can be applied or integrated into the contexts and situations. The students are guided by the teacher to apply the learnt skills in relevant contexts and situations like school and library.
In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher will guide students to practice more exercises on the relevant situations like school, and home. In these real contexts, students will practice to connect what is found in the poem with the real experiences of their contemporary societies.
  1. Vocabulary Building Practice. At this time, teacher discusses with the students on the vocabularies and phrases to apply in the already mentioned contexts and situations.
In this sub topic/lesson, the most commonly applied vocabularies are: stanza, verse, line, rhyme, theme, message, title, poet, symbol, rhythm.
Guide the students to the full lesson procedures, activities and games for better understanding of the sub topic by following these activities:
ACTIVITY ONE: Brainstorming. The teacher has to brainstorm with the students on the sub topic/lesson's aspects through oral questions with answers, pair works, and group discussions of all important concepts to get students on track.
In this activity, the teacher will make use of his/her prepared materials that are in Preparation of Materials Stage above to brainstorm with the students on various key concepts about the poems of their level of understanding and age. At this initial stage, the teacher can ask students to recall and sing some of the nursery poems and primary school poems. After singing these songs or poems, the teacher can now take the students to another stage.
Also at this stage, the teacher is expected to share with students on the:
  • The meaning of a poet,
  • The meaning of Poem
  • Verse,
  • Stanza,
  • Title,
  • Persona
  • Audience/Addressee

And other important poetic terms like:
  • Rhythm,
  • Metaphor,
  • Rhyme,
  • Theme,
  • Message, and
  • Lesson

These terms are few but important for the level of students. Form I or Form II students need to be introduced to the simple aspects of poetry and simple poems as well which will be or can be covered under this article.
All these poetic terms can be accessed under the following link:
ACTIVITY TWO: Teacher's Demonstration. The teacher applies his/models or examples so as to bring the topic/lesson and the students into the real or common sense of the topic/lesson.
In this activity, the teacher will demonstrate reading a poem aloud with accurate pronunciation. The students will listen attentively to the teacher as he/she reads the poem. For how to read a poem, a sample of a poem, and other details, you can visit this topic of ‘Interpreting poem’ in Form One.
ACTIVITY THREE: Students' Demonstration. The teacher guides students how they can apply a model like that of a teacher. The skills demonstrated by the teacher should now be demonstrated/applied by them. Here students need to be guided on how to use given expressions, structures, vocabulary, and phrases or similar ones.
In this activity, the students to will be guide by the teacher to read the poem aloud by imitating the teacher when he/she was reading the poem earlier.
The Poem
Stoops where where it is,
A bunch of bananas.

A bunch of bananas,
Does not move.

Bows in a banana tree,
A bunch of bananas.

We are human beings,
Not like a bunch of bananas.

Let us fight very hard,
And live not like a bunch of bananas.

Let us not lean,
And bend like a bunch of bananas.

After reading the selected poem, the students will have to answer oral questions about the poem they have read. These simple oral questions will act as a base to familiarize with the poem and test them if they were listening to the poem or if they paid attention to what they were reading.
At another stage, students have to discuss questions in groups about the given poem. They will use the guiding questions given by the teacher.
These guiding questions are:
  • The poet says.....
  • The poem is about...
  • The poet talks about...
  • The title of the poem is....
  • The person speaking in the poem is...
  • Neither .....nor.....
  • The themes of the poem are:
  • The message of the poem is..
  • The poem teaches us that...

Their answers will be in written forms. After discussing and writing their responses well, they will have to present their answers orally before the class. The teacher will ask the rest of the class to note down what the presenting groups are delivering.
In general, all students should asked by the teacher to note down the questions about the poem and write their answers in their exercise books. By doing this, students will be collecting the notes about the lesson. If need be, the teacher will supply some important notes at the end of the lesson on the topic.
ACTIVITY FOUR: More Contextual Students’ Demonstration. Taking/leading students to the real situations or contexts where they can apply what they have mastered. Here speaking, reading or writing activities are involved.
Under this activity, the teacher can add more activities on interpreting poems.
The Poem
You are going too fast,
The way you act,
Most people react,
Wrong direction you take!

Since you took an appointment,
Six years in government,
There have been complaints
About you!

Your colleagues are saying,
Per diems you are getting,
Abroad and working,
Give you a big head!

You are very selfish,
Personal interests,
Are matters you think most,
Than public interests!

Houses you built,
And cars you got,
Make yourself treat,
The only blessed in this world!

Tribalism is your song,
You keep people of your tongue,
Where there is something,
And treating others as nothing,
My brother! Where are you heading?
1)    Suggest the suitable title of the poem.
2)    What is the general message of the poem?
3)    What is the mood of the poet?
4)    Mention three themes from this poem.
5)    What lessons can we learn from this poem?
ACTIVITY FIVE: Winding up the topic/lesson. Here teachers summarise the topic/lesson by emphasizing the importance of the sub topic/lesson and suggesting other related aspects of the sub topic/lesson.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY: As a teacher, what other activity can be applied in this sub topic/lesson? You can always drop your alternative activity or activities to this article so as to improve teaching and learning of ‘O’ Level English Blog! (OLE).

Ask students to reflect on where they hear the poems in their societies. Guide the students to think about the poems they were singing during kindergarten classes or at primary school level. Tell them that the poems they are learning are the continuation of those simple nursery poems and primary school poems.

A teacher should design an evaluation for students by using appropriate assessment tools like oral questions or assignments so that to see if the student is able to answer questions from poems.

Assessment #01: Group work
In groups, students have to read a selected poem and interpret it by using teacher’s guiding questions. After the discussion, students should present.
Assessment #02: Pair works
The teacher to ask students to be in pairs and give them copies of a selected poem. In their pairs, students have to interpret the poem and present their answers before the class.
Assessment #03: Individual work
At this assessment, the teacher will give students the task of interpreting of poems individually.

Other Activities:
  • Select one Swahili Song and play before them. Ask them the questions about the song like rhymes and message.
  • Select one English song especially reggae song or any English song that students will not get trouble listening to it. Ask them to observe the lyrics, message, rhymes and other issues.

Note: You can give students more individual works, pair works, and group works to facilitate their interaction and understanding of the sub topic or lesson. As English language teacher you have to give students more works to do. Because language is meant to be largely spoken and written, the teacher should rely on written exercises and notes. Instead students have to learn English language by vigorously exercising individually, in pairs, and in groups.

Teacher will tell his/her students the importance of reading and writing poems. He/she discuss with the students on how poems are influential in the society. As a teacher, allow students to explore how poems have influence in the society. For example, tell them that the popular songs they listen to are the sources of poetry as an art. The students should also understand that the poems are sources of employment as exemplified by how music artists make a living through singing.

NOTE: These stages explained above are not necessarily covered in a single lesson of single or double period. Remember that this is the guide for teaching the whole sub topic which has periods ranging from 6 to 20. So, the teacher's task is to divide these stages according to the total number of periods for a particular sub topic.

This article is about how to study and teach "Interpreting poems" in Form Two. As a student or teacher, what is your opinion on how to study and teach this sub topic/lesson?
Your opinion is worth and I believe that it can make these materials better for our own consumption.
You are Welcome!

Mloka, C (2009) Status, M.N.B, Dar es Salaam.

Thank you for visiting ‘O’ Level English Blog.

If you are a STUDENT, TEACHER, PARENT/GUARDIAN, or an education stakeholder, you can also get various Materials, Teaching Guide, and Notes for ‘O’ Level English Language (OLE) right here.
You may also be interested in our products below:
1. English Language for Secondary Schools
2. Our Blogs:

3. Other Useful ‘O’ Level English Topics:

Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts

Previous Post Next Post