How to teach personification

  1. Read a variety of poems to the class. Some will include personification but do not draw the pupils’ attention to this.
  2. Choose a poem that includes personification. Split it into parts. Divide the children into groups and give each a verse which they must learn, rehearse and perform to the class with actions and sound effects. Put all these together into a class performance.
  3. Discuss the poem using open-ended questions, such as those suggested by Michael Rosen.
  4. Then allow the children to choose a favourite poem and read it to their partners. Then combine pairs into fours and have them read out their poems again, discussing why they chose them. Some could also read them out to the whole class.
  5. Read out some short personification poems, asking the children to guess what they describe.
  6. Challenge the children to write personification poems in pairs and to perform them to the rest of the class who must say what they are about.
  1. Show the children a dramatic picture of, for instance, the sea, such as Turner’s Snow Storm – Steamboat off a harbour’s mouth, or show them a video clip of an angry sea, such as from the film The Perfect Storm or Titanic. Play them some sea sound effects or music inspired by the sea. Ask them to brainstorm how the sea is feeling, and then how a lone ship might be feeling. Make a list of key vocabulary.
  2. The teacher models the writing of the first verse of a poem about the angry sea. This includes reading, correcting and improving. He/ she then acts as scribe to create a second verse through shared writing.
  3. Children then move to independent writing of poetry. The teacher tells the children they will write a first draft today. Writing frames should be avoided except, perhaps, for lower ability children or those with special needs. The teacher could mention the five simple rules for writing a poem, suggested by Dunn, Styles and Warburton (1987, p.32) – it doesn’t have to rhyme, start a new line when you pause, say something fresh, ordinary things make good poetry, and every word must count. The first draft is then discussed in pairs. Some are read out. The teacher gives written feedback to each child. The class talks about how to improve their poems and pupils have a chance to write a second draft.
  4. After further feedback, the children use ICT to type up a final version of their poems, locating dramatic sea pictures on the internet. The completed poems are placed in either a class poetry anthology or on a school website for parents to read. A selection of the poems is read out at assembly.

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