Tomorrow evening I will be flying out to Rome, ready to take part in the 2013 TESOL Italy National Convention, at the Polo Didattico, Piaza Oderico de Pordenone, 3. This will be my first time attending this conference and I am very much looking forward to it. The talks and workshops look very interesting (session abstracts here), and it is always a great experience to meet fellow professionals from other countries. I will be speaking about using video in the classroom on Friday morning, at 10:15. So this weekend, you’ll find me ‘Englishing’ in the Eternal City. Hope to see you there!
I’m writing this post from my hotel room, a few hundred metres from the site of the 32nd Annual International TESOL France Colloquium. Over the weekend the delegates have the opportunity to listen to internationally renowned speakers such as Scott Thornbury, Sue Palmer and Rosa Aronson, as well as many others from around France and beyond. Thanks to Debbie West and her team for getting this conference together.
I will be presenting my talk ‘Getting them Speaking’ tomorrow at one o’clock, and I would like to take this opportunity to publish the link to the slideshow of the talk, as well as links to posts on this blog which have covered some of the activities which I am using in my talk. I hope you find it useful.
In my previous post, I focused on how poetry formed part of the propaganda offensive designed to encourage young men to join up to fight on the Western Front, using as an example Jessie Pope’s poem ‘Who’s for the game?’, and also how poetry was employed to bring the reality of the horrors of the front line to the people back home, as in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’. In this post I present the third of the three two-hour sessions, in which we widen our focus to other areas of conflict within the First World War, namely the Dardanelles Campaign and Gallipoli, where Australian forces suffered horrific casualties. We will also examine how the dead are remembered, focusing on the ceremony at the Cenotaph which takes place every year on the Remembrance Sunday.
Lest we forget
The numbers of casualties in the First World War were staggering. Over the four years which the war lasted millions of people were killed or wounded. In just one day, 1st July 1916 – the first day of the battle of the Somme – the British army alone suffered around 60000 casualties. By the end of the battle, on 18th November, there had been over a million casualties.
British trench near the Albert–Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To begin this session, write the following numbers on the board:
5 (number of months the battle lasted – 1 July to 18 November
6 (number of miles advanced – about 9,7 km)
57470 (number of British casualties on 1 July
1000000 (approximate number of casualties during the battle on all sides)
Ask the students to try to guess what these figures represent in relation to the First World War. After a few minutes, give them the answers, then show them the table of Casualty figures for the First World War as a whole.
– the grave in communal cemetery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In this section, we will examine Rupert Brooke’s poem, ‘The Soldier‘. This poem has become one of the most popular readings for remembrance services, reflecting the sacrifice that so many young men made for their country. If you have more time, the sentiment of this poem can be contrasted with Owen’s poem, ‘Futility‘, which focuses more on the senselessness of so many deaths, but this plan of work is designed for you to work on ‘The Soldier’ on its own.
The students should read the poem, then, working in pairs, they should write down the emotions which are expressed or suggested in the poem. Once they have done this, in their pairs they should take a moment to compare and contrast the emotions found in this poem with those found in ‘Dulce et decorum est…’, guided by the following questions:
How does the outlook of the two poems differ?
Can you think of any reasons for this?
Are the sentiments of ‘The Soldier’ closer in tone to ‘Dulce et decorum est’ or ‘Who’s for the game?’?
Why do you think this is?
… and the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’
The last part of this session is based around the song, ‘The band played “Waltzing Matilda”‘, as performed in the following video. The photographs which accompany the song are useful to help the students get an idea of the situations which are being described by the lyrics.
Before showing the video and doing the lyrics exercise, ask the class which national anthems they know. You could perhaps play them clips from a series of anthems and have them identify the country in teams. Then ask them if they know any songs which are strongly associated with a country without being an official national anthem. Again, perhaps a collection of short clips may help make this point. Then play an instrumental version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ask which country might be associated with it. If they do not come up with Australia, don’t worry, simply explain the association.
As a way into the song, use this lyrics worksheet. This should be quite a simple exercise, and the main objective is simply to get the students familiar with the words of the song. As it is quite a long song, I suggest breaking it down into three sections – first verse, with the chorus, which deals with life before the war, then the description of the battle, and finally the time in the hospital and the aftermath, up to the end of the song. The worksheet is divided into these sections.
The song uses a series of contrasts between before and after the battle to draw attention to how war changes a person. Ask the students to identify parts from the beginning of the song with parts from the immediate aftermmath of the battle. They should express what changes have happened and describe the emotions associated with these changes.
Another motif used to link the different moments in the song is the ‘soundtrack’ of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ – a song which is played at every important moment in the story. In groups, students could prepare a short paragraph about how the narrator might feel at one of the points in the story when he hears ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Different groups should address different moments in the story, and these paragraphs can be displayed on the wall so they can compare the feelings at each moment.
The last part of ‘The Band Played “Waltzing Matilda”‘ describes the parades which take place each year to commemorate ANZAC Day, and focuses on the lack of understanding of the younger generations. Previous to this, the narrator describes the reaction of the people when the troops returned from Gallipoli. Write on the board the lines
‘… and nobody cheered, they just stood and stared / then turned their faces away.’
Ask the students for their reactions to these lines. Then show them this video of Remembrance Sunday. Also, read this article from the Telegraph about how until recently people from a small town in Britain honoured the service personnel who had died in the conflict in Afghanistan.
Ask the students to reflect on one of the following questions in writing:
Is this the proper way to receive people who have fought for their country?
Should we commemorate people who have died in wars?
Should commemoration be a state affair, or private?
95 years ago, the guns fell silent across the Western Front, as the Armistice took effect, leaving behind four years of destruction on a previously unimaginable scale. This conflict marked the lives of a generation of poets, who are studied in English literature classes in the United Kingdom. Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday, and in honour of this day, here is a lesson plan designed around one of my favourite poems from the First World War, ‘Dulce et decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen.
This lesson plan is designed to last for three two- hour sessions, and is suitable for advanced students, from B2+ to C2.
Session 1 – Who’s for the game?
This session focuses on the early propaganda aimed at convincing the young men of Britain to join up to fight for their country as the war began. The poem we will examine is ‘Who’s for the game?‘ by Jessie Pope.
As a way of introducing the theme, use the following video, which presents some of the propaganda posters used to encourage men to volunteer for the armed forces.
Once you have watched the video, have the students choose one of the posters which they have seen and prepare a presentation on the persuasive elements which they find in it – not just in the use of language, but also in the images. Ask them to decide if the persuasion relies on rational arguments or on emotional reactions. You can find a wide range of propaganda posters from the First World War here.
Then draw attention to the role played by women in the posters – some posters address women directly, urging them to convince their husbands and boyfriends to join up. This will provide the link to the poem for today, written by a woman but addressed to young men.
Give the students a copy of the poem and allow them to read it, helping with vocabulary if necessary. Once they have finished, in pairs get them to complete a T-chart with sports terms on one side and references to the war on the other. In reality, there are few direct references to the war. Most of the images are related to something which the young men of the time would be very familiar with – the sports’ field. At this point, it is a good idea to focus on any students who are particularly sporty in the class, and ask them for their reactions to what Pope is saying. Would you really want to be left on the sidelines? Have you ever suffered an injury as a result of your sport? What was your reaction?
Finally, examine the language itself, focusing on the elements which can be considered persuasive. Here it is important to focus on the direct address used throughout the poem by Pope, which echoes the language and images of many of the posters seen earlier – notably the image of Kitchener pointing out of the poster at ‘YOU’ reproduced above. The informal register of the poem is also important, addressing the ‘lads’ as peers, creating the illusion of peer pressure. To work on these elements of language, you can use this worksheet.
To finish the session, watch the first part of the video which will be used to start Session two, up to the point where the soldiers are on parade (0:16).
Session 2 – The reality of war
This second session focuses on the reality of the war which the recruits found when they arrived at the front line. We will read a brief biography of Wilfred Owen and we will focus on his poem, ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori‘.
To begin the session, we return to the video which closed session 1, but this time the students should watch to the end. Ask students to give their impressions of the differences between the ideal which Pope was selling to the young men and the reality they faced on the Western Front.
After a brief discussion, it is time to give the students more details about life in the trenches. The following video by Dan Snow examines the conditions that the soldiers faced in the trenches.
The presentation of the biography of Wilfred Owen can be done in various ways. The students can be asked to research his life as homework after the first session, or they can be asked to research in class if they have access to internet or reference material. Alternatively, you can use this worksheet and have them read it in class, or adapt it as a jigsaw reading activity / running dictation. They should receive the following key information:
Portrait of Wilfred Owen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• D.O.B – 18th of March 1893 • Became a teacher of English in 1913 • Enlisted in Artists’ Rifles on 21/10/15;14 months training in England • Total war experience was short: four months, only 5 weeks on front line • After experiencing war first hand, Owen became strongly anti-war. People at home had no idea of what war was like & wanted to persuade them against it. • Owen was killed in war on 4th Nov 1918 • War ended 11th November 1918 at 11 o’clock. Owen’s family received the telegram informing them of his death as the church bells of the village rang to celebrate the end of the war.
Give the students the first part of the poem – up to ‘Of gas shells dropping softly behind’:
‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.’
Work on any vocabulary the students need. In pairs, have the students work on a mindmap around the concept ‘Emotions’. How do the soldiers feel at this point in the poem? Once the students have worked on their mindmaps, have them change pairs and compare their ideas. Then give them the rest of the poem and have them add to their mindmaps:
‘Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.— Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin, If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs Bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, — My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.’
Share the ideas from the pairs in class.
Focus on the change of address in the last stanza. Here, just as in the poem by Pope, the poet addresses a reader directly. But who? Who is ‘My friend’? Allow the students to express their ideas. If they need help, remind them of Owen’s biography – he volunteered in 1915, inspired by the propaganda of the time. The original dedication of this poem was ‘To a certain poetess’ – this is Owen’s answer to Pope and her ‘Who’s for the game?’
As a final exercise, have the students compare the emotions expressed in ‘Who’s for the game?’ with those expressed by Owen in ‘Dulce et decorum est…’ Also have them look back at the propaganda posters they worked on in the first session, and include the emotions expressed there.How does the reality measure up to the propaganda?
In the next post, I will present the final session in this scheme of work – ‘Lest we forget’, and possible ideas for extension.
Although in recent years Guy Fawkes Night has been somewhat eclipsed by Hallowe’en, it is still an important date on the calendar for many British people. Here are some activities for this festival, courtesy of the British Council.
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