Lesson by: Carolyn Purslow


All pupils will... take an active part in re-telling the poem.

Some pupils will... use different voices to explore the poem.

A few pupils will... make a comparison between two similar poems.


These ideas are informed by an inclusive style of teaching and are multi-sensory in their offering.

This poem creates a collage for you, line by line, image by image. It's a song that could be set to music, it's a story to be told with actions. Its repetition instils a feeling of continuity, of inevitability - the sun keeps on coming up at the end of each verse.

It would be excellent to return to the poem regularly over a period of at least three weeks, to allow pupils a chance to engage with the poem and to give them the time and space to make their response.

Resources needed

  • PC with internet access and/or interactive whiteboard with reading of 'Variation on an Old Rhyme' by John Mole.
  • If you have an interactive whiteboard, search out a collection of images to illustrate the poem.
  • Gather a basket of objects, one for each line.
  • Materials to make flags or banners.

Teaching Sequence of Activities


Introduce 'Variation on an Old Rhyme' as a poem in the style of a song, with repeating lines.

Choose to use a series of signs that signal the start of the poem. Use an associated sound and pass around one of your related objects.

Listen to the poet reading his poem.



Taking the poem on a journey

Read the poem, taking an object out of the basket for each line and passing it around the class; hang each object on a washing line; make a 3D picture on a table; build a tower of the objects.

Pupils can use the basket of objects to retell the poem in their own way in small groups or to the class.

Make a banner for each line of the poem. Each person can choose their line then find their image.

Explore the activity within the poem. Readers and/or signers can perform the poem with action sequences and moving banners.

Explore the use of different voices to read the poem. How does the meaning change when the voice becomes angry? Or softer?

Make cards with key words symbolised or illustrated to use as cue cards when reading and performing the poem.

Extension Activities

  • Make a collection of photographs and create a collage in response to the poem.
  • Start a new poem: 'This is the child that wakes with a smile... '

Further reading and listening

Read the poem 'This is the house that Jack built'. Compare it with 'Variations on an Old Rhyme'.
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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