Unseen poem exam practice

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How to tackle the unseen question

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Unseen poem exam practice

  1. 1. English Literature Unit 2: Unseen Poetry
  2. 2. • The Poetry examination is one hour and fifteen minutes long.• Section A is a question based on the Anthology Cluster you have studied.• Section B is a question based on an unseen poem.• You are advised to spend 30 minutes on the Unseen Poetry question. The following two assessment objectives are tested in Section B:
  3. 3. • AO1: Respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations.•• This means it is a good idea to have your own personal and critical ideas about the poem and be able to think imaginatively about what the poet does with the imagery, the themes, the voice, the language etc. As it’s an unseen poem, it will have to be your own ideas – just make sure they’re credible and you can back them up. Obviously, you have to get good short quotations to prove those ideas you have about the poem!
  4. 4. • AO2: Explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings.• This means you have to look in real detail at the words and techniques the poet uses to create the themes, the rhythm, the subject matter, the voice and the tone of the poem form. In addition, if you know what specific form of poem you are reading, you should make a point about how the poet uses that form – maybe it’s a sonnet, a villanelle, a dramatic monologue etc…• What poetic devices are utilised? Is there a rhyme scheme and has it been used for a reason? Imagery? Contrasts? Specific vocabulary etc..? How do they have on an impact? In addition, you must make a point about the structure of the poem. What happens where? It may be something about how each stanza starts. It could be about when the poem changes tone. It could be about how the poem builds. It could be about a point or a line that is repeated to have a deliberate structural effect. Make at least one point about structure!
  5. 5. Example Unseen Poem and Question: June 2011 ©AQA How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience of learning to read and how does the poet present the speaker’s feelings?Slow Reader He toys with words, letting them go coldHe can make sculptures as gristly meat,and fabulous machines, until I relentinvent games, tell jokes, and let him wriggle free: a fish returninggive solemn, adult advice – to its element,but he is slow to read. or a white-eyed colt – shyingWhen I take him on my knee from the bit *– who seeswith his Ladybird book that if he takes it in his mouthhe gazes into the air, he’ll never runsighing and shaking his head quite free again.like an old manwho knows the mountainsare impassable. VICKI FEAVER
  6. 6. How to tackle the question1. Read the poem through twice, trying to get a feel for the rhythm and the effect of any repetition, rhyme, punctuation, alliteration etc2. Work out what the poem is about and the poem’s voice (ie is it written in first, second, third person and who is it addressing?)3. Identify the Purpose, Theme or Message4. Explore the Emotions, Mood and Feelings5. Identify the techniques the poet has used and how they create the emotions, moods or feelings (form, structure, language, imagery)6. What are your thoughts feelings about the poem?
  7. 7. 7. Now annotate the poem to pick out the important bits .8. Make a quick plan before you start – you only have about 5minutes to plan, so keep it short.Focus on two to four key quotes from the poem. Remember youare aiming to write a lot about a little.
  8. 8. Use these questions to help you annotate last year’s unseen poem: 5 mins1. Explain what the poem is about in one sentence.2. What is the mood of the poem?3. Comment on how the structure and rhythm of the poem affects/creates the mood4. What are the speaker’s feelings towards the child? Come up with three different feelings.5. What is the effect of the semi-colon in line 4 and how does it help express the speaker’s feelings?6. How does the lack of rhyme help express the speaker’s feelings?7. What is the effect of the list at the start of the poem?8. Explain how the use of dynamic verbs at the start of the poem contrasts with the verbs used later in the poem when describing the child trying to read.9. Find an example of a simile in the second stanza. What is its effect?10.Which image stands out the most to you in the poem and why?
  9. 9. When answering the question, “saying a lot about alittle” is needed. You should ideally select two to fourquotations from the unseen poem, about which youcan say several things. It is a proven way of gaining thehigher marks on AO2.Below are two example paragraphs that use thatprinciple. The AO1 objectives (Imaginative ideas,textual detail, Interpretations) have been highlighted inblue. The AO2 objective (Language, structure andForm) in red. Each paragraph addresses a different partof the overall question:
  10. 10. Q: How do you think the speaker feels about the child and hisexperience of learning to read and how does the poet present thespeaker’s feelings?How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience oflearning to read?At the start of the poem, the poet uses a list to show thechild’s many other varied skills: “make sculptures…fabulousmachines…invent games”. The specific use of dynamic verbsand positive adjectives in the list show that at the start ofthe poem, the poet believes in the child’s different abilities.By using the words “sculptures” and “invent”, which are wordsthat conjure up complex adult and artistic endeavours, thepoet clearly sees the child as incredibly capable. In addition,the use of “fabulous” helps to show that what he puts togetheris worthy of high praise. As mentioned, at the outset of thepoem, the poet clearly values the child. The poet does this inorder to strongly show in the rest of the poem that the processof reading is only one of many difficult experiences thatchildren have to learn and they may struggle in spite of theirother valuable skills.
  11. 11. How does the poet present the speaker’s feelings?The poet has the child allow the words to “go coldas gristly meat”. This simile is used to present achild who can hardly bare to read the words. Thecomparison to “gristly meat’ presents reading asan unpleasant experience for the boy, one thathe has to constantly chew on. The use of “Gristly”also suggests that it is tough and, as gristleitself is not proper food, and has no propernutritional value: there may be no point to actuallygoing through the reading process for the boy. Theadjective “cold” also combines with the “gristle” tomake an even more potent visual image. There isno life in reading for the boy. It is presented aslimp and dead in contrast to his other moreexciting adventures.
  12. 12. Use the same type of approach and practice “saying a lot about a little” withone of the following lines:‘sighing and ‘like an old ‘a fish ‘a white-eyedshaking his man returning colt’head’ who knows the to its element’ mountains are impassable.’
  13. 13. Q: What do you think the speaker hopesfor the girl he is addressing? How doesthe poet express the speaker’s feelings? Born Yesterday By Philip Larkin 30 mins

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