Give out a copy of the poem to each student and a highlighter. Ask the students to read 'Ceasefire' aloud to one another and then silently into themselves. Ask the students to highlight the words or phrases which stand out to them as they make their own and listen to other readings of the poem.
Ask the students to get into groups of three or four people and to bring their copies of 'Ceasefire' with them. In the groups they are going to prepare a performance of the poem. Make the students aware of the range and possibilities of their individual voices (volume, tone, and pace) and then the possibilities of combining voices. Ask them why would they combine voices when reading aloud? What would the effect be of a single voice after a range of combined voices? Ask the students to get into groups of three or four people and to bring their copies of ‘Ceasefire’ with them. In the groups they are going to prepare a performance of the poem. Make the students aware of the range and possibilities of their individual voices (volume, tone, and pace) and then the possibilities of combining voices. Ask them why would they combine voices when reading aloud? What would the effect be of a single voice after a range of combined voices?
Equally, make students aware that individuals, or the group as a whole, are expected to create freeze-frames of the poem. The classroom activities should be a freeze-frame per section of the poem as the group reading is being conducted. The frame should be held until that section of the poem has been read.
Now give the students time to discuss with one another what parts of the poem they highlighted. This will give them a method to choose parts of the poem which need attention in the way that students use their voices and as possible freeze-frames to be held during each section of the poem. The groups should then rehearse and perform their readings and freeze-frames.
As a whole class listen to and watch each group's performance of 'Ceasefire'. After each group has performed its freeze-frames ask the class to identify what part of the poem was being performed.
Using the Poetry Archive listen to Michael Longley's reading of 'Ceasefire'. As a whole class of readers and listeners ask the students would their performances have been any different if they had listened only to Longley’s reading? Why?
Use the plenary to allow the students to tell you what freeze-frames they have remembered. As many of the groups will have used the same moments of 'Ceasefire' to create their freeze-frames, this will give you as the teacher the opportunity to point out those freeze frames which are significant moments in the poem. What do the chosen freeze-frames have to do with the meaning of the word 'Ceasefire'?
Draw students' attention to the way in which Longley in the sonnet uses tender, intimate, domestic, familial words, images and actions in order to define the personal relationship established between Priam, King of Troy, and Achilles the Greek warrior. In doing so Longley depicts the traditional epic hero figures of Homer's grand narrative as respectful, friendly, empathetic human beings rather than the hostile, warring enemies of classical mythology. For example, quatrain III's lines 'When they had eaten together, it pleased them both / To stare at each other's beauty as lovers might'.
These poetic effects arise as a result of Longley choosing the personal and intense lyric voice of the sonnet form for handling his war theme. Invite student comment on the meaning of the final couplet. How and in what ways might the episode from Homer's 'Iliad' help Longley as poet engage with the 'Ulster Troubles' and we, as readers, with other political conflicts and wars taking place in the world today?