Lesson by: Julie Blake


For students to:
  • Understand, respond to and create multimodal texts
  • Develop and adapt discussion skills and strategies in formal and informal contexts
  • Experience poetry aurally in the high-octane form of the two poets' recordings, and in Billy Collins's animated poems on YouTube


This sequence of lessons will involve students in working with multimodal versions of poems, from the Poetry Archive and YouTube, and creating their own multimodal versions of one of the two poems explored. As such, it requires some confidence to let young people 'play' with ICT, and some trust that the combination of your expertise with poetry and their 'digital native' expertise with ICT literacies will create a powerful dynamic for learning. This could work particularly well as a nice sequence of 'cross-curricular' lessons taught with ICT and Art and Design teachers, perhaps as part of a special curriculum project day. The presentation element at the end is designed to re-focus attention on the poetry and encourage evaluation of the project.

Resources needed

  • Poetry Archive recordings of Adrian Mitchell reading 'Playground', and Robin Robertson reading 'Donegal'
  • Access to YouTube and/or 'shared' copies of a selection of Billy Collins animated poem videos from the website
  • An internet connected ICT suite or class set of wifi laptops

Teaching Sequence of Activities


Introduce the idea of a poet laureate, perhaps using or adapting the poet laureate quiz available on www.teachit.co.uk. If part of the task of the modern poet laureate is to raise the public profile of poetry, how would students do it? Brainstorm ideas, encouraging creative exploration of public perceptions of poetry, and creative problem solving.


Then introduce Billy Collins, twice American poet laureate, and one of the ways in which he has reached a wider public audience - through YouTube. Play one or more of Billy Collins's animated poems from the site. Invite responses, to the idea and to the animation.

Next invite students to imagine they have been commissioned to produce similar videos for a selection of poems about childhood. Play the recordings of 'Donegal' and 'Playground', and also provide copies of the poem for reading and discussion. Set groups the task of making some initial notes on each poem, exploring speakers, situations, settings, themes, moods, styles - including key images - and structures. In a mini-plenary, ask each group to select which one they think they could best work with to create an animated version, and why.

Next, let students loose in their groups on the animation task, choosing one poem to animate. It may be best to allocate specific roles, otherwise you can end up with each student producing one part of a whole that doesn't hang together. So, for example, you might have groups of four with a content director, a technical director, a project manager responsible for getting the job done in time, and a researcher responsible for finding images, music or whatever else they need. You might at this stage provide some specialist ICT input on how to produce the animations in different formats, depending on the ICT and media resources on your school, but this can also be done simply using powerpoint or an equivalent software application.

When the animations are finished, give students some time to prepare a formal presentation of their work to the class. This could include:
  • the overall purpose and intended audience for the task
  • an overview of their interpretation of the poem's meaning and impact
  • the way they have attempted to use multimodal resources to show that interpretation
  • what they think has worked well, and what limitations they encountered
  • how well they have achieved their purpose (and how they know).


In a plenary context, each group formally presents its animation to the class, as above. If you are having a curriculum project day, you could enhance this with your panel of experts (English, ICT, and Art & Design, and also a yoof-audience-representative) each giving a response and/or marks out of 10.

Extension Activities

Isn't that enough?!! But if you want to take it further, students could be encouraged to write and then animate their own poems about childhood, or create a whole multimodal 'childhood' anthology. For formal written work, put all the animations on your intranet and set the task of contrasting two interpretations, considering what the artefact makers have done with settings, speakers, situations, moods, themes, etc.

Further reading and listening

The two poems selected here are more amenable than some others to this task because they are quite short and have a certain visual and aural immediacy, but there are lots of other poems in the Poetry Archive which share the theme of childhood. Use the theme browser to explore them.
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Lesson plans and classroom activities

Each of these lessons and activities is built around one of the recordings in the Archive, and is ready for you to print off and use in the classroom