OneD – presentational devices!


Spoiler alert: the deaths in Shakespeare’s tragedies

Here are the ways in which the characters die in Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Hmmm, what does it say about me that Titus Andronicus is my favourite play?

What is iambic pentameter?

Iambic pentameter is the rhythmic structure, or metre, used in many of the poems in the AQA Anthology. Here is a list of poems that use iambic pentameter in their structure:
  • ‘Sonnet 116′ by William Shakespeare
  • ‘Sonnet 43′ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • ‘Nettles’ by Vernon Scannell

But what is iambic pentameter? Well, hopefully this brilliant video will help you understand it…

Five steps to analysing an unseen poem

Here are five steps that you can use when you first see an unseen poem, to help you think about how to write about it.

STEP ONE: Work out what the poem is about

  • What is the subject of the poem?
  • Who is speaking?
  • Who is the narrator speaking to?

STEP TWO: Identify the themes and message of the poem…

  • Why has the poet written the poem?
  • What are they trying to say?
  • What ideas are they using?
  • Is it an emotional response to something that’s happened?
  • Is it trying to get an emotional response from the reader?
  • Is it portraying a message or opinion on a subject or event?

STEP THREE: Identify the attitudes and feelings in the poem…

  • What are the different emotions and feelings of the narrator or poet?
  • What is the mood or atmosphere of the poem (e.g. sad, angry, etc.)?
  •  How has the poet used different poetic techniques to show these attitudes and feelings?

STEP FOUR: Identify the poetic techniques used in the poem…

  • What are the different poetic techniques that the poet has used to show the attitudes and feelings in the poem?
  • How has the poet shown these feelings through form and structure (e.g. rhyme, rhythm, line length, stanza length, etc.)?
  • How has the poet used poetic devices to show these feelings (e.g. metaphors, similes, caesura, enjambment, alliteration, juxtaposition, personification, etc.)?

STEP FIVE: Explore your personal response to the poem…

  • How do you feel about the poem?
  • How well does the poet get the message across in the poem?
  • What is the impact of the poem on the reader (refer to ‘the reader’, rather than ‘I’ when talking about the impact of the poem)?
  • Are there any other ways the poem could be interpreted?

Practise going through these steps with unseen poems over and over again until you can do it in good time (you have 30 minutes to answer the question in the exam, so you should take about 5-10 minutes reading and planning). The best way to access unseen poems is to look in your AQA Anthology at the other clusters (not the one you have studied). As you have studied one cluster (15 poems), that means there are 45 unseen poems left for you to look at in the Anthology!

Here is a poem for you to look at and have a go at the 5 step process with. You could cut and paste  and print it so you are able to highlight if you like.

November by Simon Armitage


We walk to the ward from the badly parked car

with your grandma taking four short steps to our two.

We have brought her here to die and we know it.


You check her towel. soap and family trinkets,

pare her nails, parcel her in the rough blankets

and she sinks down into her incontinence.


It is time John. In their pasty bloodless smiles,

in their slack breasts, their stunned brains and their baldness

and in us John: we are almost these monsters.


You’re shattered. You give me the keys and I drive

through the twilight zone, past the famous station

to your house, to numb ourselves with alcohol.


Inside, we feel the terror of the dusk begin.

Outside we watch the evening, failing again,

and we let it happen. We can say nothing.


Sometimes the sun spangles and we feel alive.

One thing we have to get, John, out of this life.



Source: Wildern English Blog

BBC Bitesize revision – ‘Relationships’ cluster

BBC Bitesize for GCSE English Literature is an excellent resource for your revision of the poems. They have put together some excellent revision notes on each of the poems from the ‘Relationships’ cluster of the AQA Anthology. Many of the notes also include videos or audio recordings of the poems.

You can also discuss poems and exam approaches with other pupils on their GCSE English Message Board


Click the links!!

‘Relationships’ cluster – summary of the poems

This features a brief one-slide summary for each poem, which looks at key quotes and themes. It also suggests other poems in the cluster that you could link each poem to.

Source: Wildern English Blog

The Poetry Station video resources


Click on the image to go to The Poetry Station’s video resources for the ‘Relationships’ cluster of the AQA Anthology.

The Poetry Station is a great web resource, featuring videos of readings of poems from the ‘Relationships’ and ‘Character and Voice’ clusters of the AQA Anthology, as well as discussions and analyses of the poems by other poets. Click on the image above to watch some of these videos.

‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage


Remember that game, ‘Operation!’? I was rubbish at it. It was all about the steady hand, you see. It’s a good job I went into teaching and not medicine. Anyway, the one thing I did like about it was how they used metaphorical and symbolic objects to represent body parts.

Simon Armitage does much the same thing in his poem, ‘The Manhunt’, from the Relationships cluster of the AQA Anthology. Here’s a quick game for you, and it doesn’t involve a steady hand. It involves an analytical mind, though.

Without looking at the poem, can you match up the objects with the body parts? These are the objects that Armitage uses as metaphors in the poem.

Then answer these questions:
•What is the link between them?
•Why does he use them?
•What is he suggesting about each body part by referring to it this way?
•Is there a link between each of the objects – do they share a theme or themes?

Can you match the object with the body part?

Source: Wildern English Blog

The social and historical context of ‘Of Mice and Men’

The BBC Bitesize pages offer comprehensive information on the social and historical context of John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men. They also produced this short film to help you understand this context. Really useful with some excellent visual images of the place and time.

Revision video on ‘Of Mice and Men’

This video gives a quick synopsis of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. It also briefly discusses the major characters and themes of the book, as well giving some analysis.