Lesson by: Carolyn Purslow


The pupils will:
  • Use illustrations, evidence and anecdote to enrich their writing
  • Draw on their experience of story and poetry when developing ideas


This is a strongly visual poem that will resonate with anyone who has closely observed a seagull! There is the particularity of the poet's observation and the historical memories that resonate when the gull lands on his window ledge.

Allow pupils the time to engage with the poem and consider with them how we contextualise animals, people and objects in order to make sense of them.

Resources needed

  • PC/interactive whiteboard with access to the Poetry Archive recording and text of The Gull by Edwin Morgan
  • Big paper and felt pens
  • Photos of animals as starting points for new poems

Teaching Sequence of Activities


Show pupils a photo of another creature i.e. not a seagull.

Ask for an immediate response. Encourage them to call out the words or mind images, stories or films that the photo brings to mind and write them onto a large sheet.

Ask pupils to divide the words into two groups. They could be real and poetic; or fact and fiction; or fact and myth; or they can decide on two categories of their own. They should explain why they have chosen particular words to place in each group.


Listen to the poet reading his poem. Listen to it a few times without comment.

Can pupils explain why you chose to do the starter activity? How does it relate to the poem?

Ask a pupil to read the poem out loud but change three words/phrases: A seagull to A man; a supergull to a superman; and scuttered claws to scuttered nails. Ask the pupil to read the altered poem to a friend as though they were telling a true story. Discuss what a difference those changes made.

Begin a new poem:
An owl stood on my window ledge today...
or A toad stood on my window ledge today...
or choose another animal with a history!
What images, sounds, memories come to mind in relation to these creatures? How does this animal move and breathe?

What about the dark side of its life, the underbelly or 'the visitation'?

Talk in small groups to recall habitats, news stories, mythology about their chosen creatures. Search the internet, books and magazines for related pictures. Work on developing the poem. Encourage pupils to include particular observations of movement, natural habitats and a vision of the darker side.


The poems need to be performed. Make sure you consider the ambience of the performance space.

Extension Activities

Create a layered collage of poetic images: the journey of the seagull, from the icebergs to the window ledge.

Build a collage of photographic images to accompany the new poems.

Further reading and listening

Hyena by Edwin Morgan

The Loch Ness Monster's Song by Edwin Morgan

Bats' Ultrasound by Les Murray

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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