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Being a Writer

Unseen poetry GCSE

During the GCSE English Literature exam, students will be required to write an essay comparing two different poems that are written about the same topic, for example two poems about love.

In the first part, students will be asked to answer a question about one poem. In the next question they will be asked to answer a question about a second poem and compare that poem to the first.

Whilst this can seem daunting, with plenty of practice the unseen section of the exam can be creative and enjoyable. The unseen poetry section gives students a chance to tap in to the analytical part of their brain, opening the flood gates to a wide range of interpretations.

But how can you prepare your students for the unseen poetry section of their English Literature exam?

  1. Give students as many unseen texts as possible

During the run up to GCSEs, it is important to give students as many unseen pieces of text as you can.

The more texts that they study, the more confident they will feel and the more likely it is that a poem they know will show up in the exam. This is all about practice, practice and more practice.

By reading lots of different poetry, students will begin to understand different forms and language, naturally forming comparisons in their mind.

There are plenty of handy resources, such as this Unseen Poetry Pack from Teachit English, that have pairs of poems ready to compare and provide helpful tips for students on tackling unseen poetry.

  1. Begin by looking at the 3 main elements of poetry

There are three main areas of poetry that students will need to look at during the exam. These are form, structure and language. Identifying any key points about these three areas can help to build a solid foundation and will help to secure the lower marks.

From this, you can lead on to helping students with further analysis of the context, themes, ideas and attitudes within the poems which will form a more in-depth essay with a better structure and stronger comparisons. When students are identifying similarities or differences, it is worth remembering that including quotations to back up their statements will help to reach higher marks.

  1. Get students to bring in a poem that they can swap with classmates

Not only does this take the pressure of you as a teacher, it also ensures that a wide range of poetry is being shared amongst the class as each student will have their own favourite poet or genre of poetry.

Students will be able to explore different genres and styles of poetry whilst feeling more involved with their own learning and revision. By getting students more involved with the tasks, they will also feel more involved with their own learning and revision.