Lesson on 'Immigrant' by Fleur Adcock

Lisa Dart


This lesson invites pupils to explore ways of shaping emotional experience in poetic form. You will be able to encourage discussion of complex feelings about identity that many pupils will have experienced. The lesson concentrates to begin with on feelings of isolation and 'not fitting in'.

'Immigrant' may be a very good poem to use in conjunction with the James Berry poem 'In-a Brixtan Markit', which explores similar themes.

  • To encourage the pleasure of reading poetry;
  • to encourage the pleasure of listening to poetry;
  • to enable pupils to understand how emotional responses may be poetically expressed;
  • to develop pupils' ability to use technical language in their discussion of poetry.
Resources needed
  • Poetry Archive recording of Fleur Adcock reading 'Immigrant'
  • whiteboard or screen linked to Poetry Archive website, for viewing the text of the poem
  • tape recorders (for one of the extension activities)

Teaching sequence of activities


A choice of four possibilities

  • Organise pupils into small groups to share experiences of times when they felt like outsiders in some way.
  • Organise the pupils into small groups and ask them to discuss what it means to be English.
  • Organise the pupils into small groups and ask them to discuss what it means to speak English.
  • You could give each group within the same classroom a different one of the above tasks to discuss.


Ask the pupils to report back on their group discussions. You might want to note down on the board anything they say which you feel links up with issues related to the poem; but don't feel you have to comment, just write it down.

Discuss all the groups' responses (and keep it pacy by asking the latter groups to add only things not already mentioned, or to share a particularly dramatic occasion when one of them felt like an outsider.)

Now play the poem through once, with the text displayed on the screen, and pupils listening and perhaps jotting down anything that connects with their discussions. (So, for example, the groups discussing isolation may focus their attention on this theme within the poem.)

You can hear responses at this point if you want to, if pupils are very keen to share. Otherwise ask the pupils to listen to the poem a second time, and ask them to decide what the emotional tone of the poem is. Alternatively, you might like the pupils to draw images from the poem. This may work particularly well with less able pupils.


Now is a good time to hear pupils' responses to the poem. Perhaps you could focus the discussion on two questions for each group:

  • How did the poet use words, images, repetition, etc to describe a situation similar to the ones pupils were discussing in their small groups?
  • Did pupils like or dislike the way the poem explored ideas of being an outsider, not being English, etc? Make sure you ask them to give reasons for their responses.

You could conclude by asking pupils to find other examples that they would all recognise as images of belonging or a sense of being the odd one out, in the same way as the pelican and the swans do in Adcock's poem. What would they choose?

Learning outcomes

  • Pupils will explore feelings of being an outsider
  • Pupils will increase understanding of how poetic techniques, eg image, metaphor and repetition, may shape emotional experience to powerful effect
  • Pupils will work in groups to share ideas and responses
  • Pupils will develop/consolidate critical vocabulary relevant for the discussion of poetry in general and 'Immigrant' specifically
  • Pupils will practise listening skills
  • Pupils will increase their knowledge of, and express their individual responses to, poetry
  • Pupils will gain insight into socio-historical contexts that may be used to enhance understanding of poetry

Extension Activities

Individual, paired or group work

  • Ask pupils to research the context of the poem. For example, what can they find out about the films or the music of the early sixties? (They might enjoy finding lyrics of songs by Linton Kwesi Johnson and Billy Bragg and comparing/contrasting them.)
  • Ask pupils to create oral histories of the time by interviewing people they know who were alive then, eg grandparents.


  • Ask less able pupils to write a poem about an experience of feeling like an outsider.
  • Ask more able pupils to write a poem about a similar experience, but using the same structure as 'Immigrant'.
  • Pupils of all abilities could be asked to compare and contrast the two poems: 'Immigrant' by Fleur Adcock and 'In-a Brixtan Markit' by James Berry (or 'Immigrant' with another poems of their choice).

Further Reading

Other poems by Fleur Adcock

'Wodwo' by Ted Hughes

For research purposes

  • Notes from a Small Country by Bill Bryson
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (opening section)
  • To Sir with Love by E.R. Braithwaite

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