Description: This proposal is designed around the theme of school through the use of the poem First Day at School by Roger McGough, one of Britain’s best loved poets, and a relevant animated short video. Students practise reading, hypotheses making and reflect on their first day at school. The thinking routine used is Explanation Game.
Learners: All ages
Language: School and feelings toward school related vocabulary, responding to wh- questions
Skills: Parts of the speech identification, reading a poem, speaking, writing, development of causal explanation and hypotheses making, watching a short video
Materials: Tagxedo slide or hand-out, poem hand-out, a short video
Show your students the tagxedo of the poem and ask them to guess what the poem is about from the words they can see in the tagxedo.
Pair your students and ask them to look at the tagxedo again and organize as many words as they can in categories: nouns, verb forms (gerunds, participles), adjectives. Allow 10 minutes and get feedback. Alternatively, you can hand out the black and white version of the tagxedo.
Organize your students in 3 groups, one for each stanza of the poem. Precut and jumble the lines of each stanza. Distribute the jumbled lines of the stanzas to each group. Ask them to order them in the correct sequence. Facilitate students by providing the first line of each stanza. Allow 15 minutes and get feedback.
Give your students the poem to read. Ask groups: a) Do you have any different thoughts now about what the poem is about? b) Can you give a title? Keep a visible record of students’ differentiated thoughts and titles.
Say: I notice millionbillionwillion miles (wordplay to show extreme distance from) in the first stanza, lessins (lessons) and glassrooms (classrooms) in the second, yellowellies (wellington boots) in the third. That’s interesting. What do you think they mean? Who is the speaker? (A young child who has just been dropped off by his mother in the playground of a school on his very first day). Then, go on with: I notice railings in the second stanza, wolves and monsters. That’s strange. Where do you think the speaker is? How does he feel? (Confused, alone, slightly scared). Finally, return to lessins and glassrooms and ask your students. Why do you think the poet uses these words? (to show the child’s confusion or misinterpretations of what he has been told about school).
1. The railings that surround the playground are first seen by the child as a protection from outside threats (wolves and monsters) then as prison bars designed to prevent his escape from other monsters (lessins kept in glassrooms).
2. His wellington boots (yellowwellies), his name (I wish I could remember my name), his mother (I wish she was here) reflect his life certainties and the desire for the comfort of his mother’s presence.
Ask your students: Do you have any other questions about the poem? A visible record of students’ explanations and questions from steps 3, 4 and 5 is kept visible to the class as they are shared.
Ask your students: How would you read this poem? In a comic/funny/sad/serious way? Let groups decide and read the poem in their chosen way.
Note: the tone of the poem is actually a comic one with the intention of empathizing with the child’s insecurity and confusion.
Reveal the title of the poem and the name of the poet. Then, ask them to respond in writing to the following prompts: a) three things they like about the poem b) three things they don’t like or don’t fully understand c) three questions they would ask if the poet were here.
Tell your students: You are video producers and your job is to present this poem. What images would you use to accompany it? Allow 10 minutes for the groups to write down their ideas. Then, tell them that they’re going to watch a video animation of the poem. Show the video.
Ask them if they liked the video and draw comparisons with their ideas.
Ask students to write a text reflecting on their first day at school.
I hope you find this proposal worth experimenting with.