Lesson on 'In-a Brixtan markit' by James BerryLisa Dart
This lesson will help you to explore with pupils the power of dialect in a poem. This recording provides a very vivid, lively reading of a poem that many teachers may otherwise shy away from, feeling they lack the confidence to read it well themselves. The poem on the page and the recording may well provide much to discuss about the importance of hearing poets reading their own work, as well as an immediately accessible rendition of a poem that pupils may otherwise struggle to understand. The poem provides an exciting model for pupils' own writing, and opportunities to discuss the need for a high degree of linguistic specificity in the writing of poetry more generally.
To encourage the pleasure of reading and listening to poetry To further pupils' understanding of dialect and the specificity of language poets use to shape meanings To encourage pupils to explore how emotional responses may be expressed in a poem To develop pupils' abilities to use technical language in their discussion of poetry
Poetry Archive recording of James Berry reading 'In-a Brixtan Markit' whiteboard or screen linked to Poetry Archive website, for viewing the text of the poem tape recorders (if available)
Teaching sequence of activities
Without telling your pupils that this is a poem, listen to the recording together. Ask pupils to discuss in pairs when they may have been treated unfairly. When? What happened? How did they feel? Give pupils the title of the poem and suitable pictures from the internet, books, etc to support discussion on what they imagine the market is like.
Look at the text of 'In-a Brixtan Markit' on the whiteboard or screen, and then listen to the recording a second time. Ask your pupils to explore in pairs what the poem is about. (What has actually happened? Who is telling the story? How does the narrator feel?) Instruct pupils to work in groups to do one of the following, with a view to making their own sound recording (if practical): write the poem in Standard English; write the poem in another dialect they may be familiar with; or write another poem, telling the incident from someone else's point of view (the policeman, a stall-holder, a passer-by etc). Explain to your pupils that they may prepare to present their work, either to play the recording they have made or simply to do a prepared reading to the whole class.
Now encourage your pupils to discuss aspects of performance. For example, what do they notice about the experience of hearing a poem without having the text in front of them? What difference does it make to read the poem on the page? You could also encourage your pupils to discuss dialects: Why do they think dialects exist? Why might someone wish to keep/lose their dialect? What do they understand about the difference between accent and dialect? As a follow-up you could ask your pupils to go to any public place (eg shopping mall, railway, library) and listen to what goes on, note down or record what they hear and bring their findings to the next lesson. These could be the beginnings of a new poem, dramatisation or story that pupils are to write in a subsequent lesson.
Individual, paired or group work Ask pupils to research aspects of language e.g. accent, dialect, creoles, pidgins to make a presentation to the rest of the class. Send pupils on a poetry trail. Give them a selection of poems to read on the theme of different dialects. Ask them to order the poems according to specific criteria, such as interest and enjoyment or poetic features (vivid image, repetition etc); and to read their selection to the class, justifying their choice. Differentiation Less able pupils could map the emotional changes the narrator experiences as the poem proceeds, colour-coding the changes. Give pupils of all abilities the poem without the title to begin with Ask them to lend the poem a suitable title and then discuss reasons for their choices. Suggest pupils present a mime or dramatisation of the incident in the poem. Pupils could also prepare a group reading of the poem to perform to the class.
Other poems by James Berry 'Wherever I Hang' by Grace Nichols 'Half Caste' by John Agard For research purposes The English Language by David Crystal The Languages Book (English and Media Centre)