Poetry isn’t for everyone, but it is a key part of both the GCSE and A-level English Literature examinations.
There a few ways that you can help your students revise poetry to give them the confidence they need to do their best in their exam:
Encourage them to read the poem(s) more than once
For the first read, try to discourage them from taking any notes. This is to give them the chance to really engage with the poem and understand how they feel after reading it. By doing this, they will be able to form a better argument when writing their response to the exam question.
When reading the poem for a second time, they can then begin to make notes on the form, structure and rhyme scheme and annotate or underline any key themes and language within the poem.
Students can then begin to really delve in to any other thoughts they have on the poem and any other points they notice such as the tense, any repetition and the meaning behind the words.
Keep the argument focused
Students should decide on an argument that they are going to base their essay on and should stick to this. Any comments they make and areas within the poem that they start to analyse should always be linked back to the overarching argument and ultimately the exam question.
When practicing essays in class, it is also important to remind students that evidence is key when trying to argue a certain point. There is no use making a point, but having no evidence to back it up or writing about the rhyme scheme when it actually has no relevance to the argument that is being made.
Show students how to make a plan
A plan is a great way to keep on track, whilst also showing examiners where the essay was going if students run out of time to finish.
Writing a plan should be the first step when writing essays in class so that it becomes the first natural process in the exam room. Examiners can look through the essay plan and give marks for any ideas that a student may have had.
Show students sample answers
Sample answers and past papers should never be underestimated. By showing students different past questions they will be able to understand how best to respond and will know what kinds of questions to expect in their exam.
You can also show students different graded responses, so that they understand what they need to do to reach higher marks.
For further assistance with teaching poetry, there are plenty of teaching resources and revision packs available to help you plan well-structured lessons. These can help you to shape your lesson plans and give your students the best possible support throughout their learning.