My son recently had a poetry assignment for English Year 7.

The assignment itself was interesting, though in my opinion quite difficult for that age group. I vaguely remember having to write one poem in primary school and been given very little information on how to achieve that ‘outcome’ apart from reading some obscure, boring poems from England that didn’t really reach in and yank my heart out of my chest, all bloodied and pounding. But it was just one poem afterall.

This is what the boy had to do:

Write  a collection of poems (a limerick, a shape poem, haiku, cinquain, Octopoem, poem with a twist, alliterative poem, acrostic, painless poem and a free verse). The following poetic devices are to be included: rhythm, rhyming scheme, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphor, personification and simile.

Next choose one poem to digitally adapt or perform in front of the class. Students are to try to have at least 2 modes in the presentation (e.g., listening, speaking, reading, viewing, writing or creating).

Then reflect on such things as ‘were the text structures used in your collection of poems effective in supporting your message and point of view’ and ‘was your digital adaptation/performance multi-modal? Did it enhance the meaning of your poem? How?’

Simple really – hahahaha – maybe this assignment could be compulsory prelim work for all poetry apprentices.

Assignment aside, it was the accompanying information sheet from the Australian National Curriculum that blew my mind (and not in a good way).

The sheet included the Year 7 Standard Elaborations for the Unit of ‘The look and sound of poetry’. It basically specifies what characteristics the folio of student work should include and has gems such as:

‘discerning analysis of how text structures relate to different purposes, audiences and contexts to communicate a message through their poetry collection and writing their reflection.

I understand the need for consistency at the national level; I do, but please have mercy on the teacher 😓 dear writer of deathly boring outcomes-based teaching materials.

However, teachers have chosen their career and have to put up with these bureaucratic masterpieces (I know about these things having once worked in the public service of the development of head banging literary formations* ;)).

What I object to is that the sheet of Argy Bargy is handed out to students along with the assignment.

Remember, these are impressionable young year 7 students. They probably already hate poetry (in line with majority parental attitudes) and it is likely they will require significant neurological brain twisting to engage with the poetic art forms 😉

It all comes down to the teacher of course – someone who can dazzle the poor boys and girls with flair, flamboyance and finesse (see teacher – I put that example of alliteration in there just for you :D) and preferably material that relates to their personal existence (with a bit of wit thrown in to wake students from their somnolent states).

I don’t know what the answer it but I’m sure there is one – it might involve cloning of talented poetry teachers such as John Keating:

Carpe Diem


*if that line makes sense I suspect you may work in a similar area 😉