Reading between the Lines


Today I have decided to share a reading/ creative writing activity that is always greeted with enthusiasm. Even as a relief teacher, in the most challenging of environments, this lesson is extremely popular.

To cut a long story short, I use Kennings poems, examples I have written, others sourced from the internet or previous students, to teach the skill of inference. The latter part of the lesson culminates in the class writing their own examples, then sharing them, with the class. Using clues in the poem to make an inference, they attempt to identify the subject. This elicits intense discussions, light hearted debate and much laughter.

Teaching the skill of inference to students who have little life experience can be problematic. To infer meaning, we take what we know, search for clues in the text and or picture and form conclusions. Naturally it is easier to solve the puzzle when you have a wealth of life experience. To cut to the chase, it is part of our ‘job spec’ to improve our end product. Helping every student to gain a deeper meaning of what they read, in turn makes reading more enjoyable. Continue to build on that throughout the year and Bingo, you’ll have the entire class reading under their desks as you are trying to teach Statistics!


 Juicy Stuff 

“Don’t Mention the Word”

LO: Take what you already know and use clues in the poem to solve the puzzle.

Lesson outline (basically the same as all my juicy writing lessons)

  • Ask the class what inference is. Why is it important?
  • “I am going to write the first line of a poem on the board, use clues to guess what it is about?”
  • Record every student’s contributions on the whiteboard. No suggestion is a bad one.
  • Write second line of poem. “Anymore suggestions?” Record.
  • Write third line. Record suggestions. Discuss clues, reasons for assumptions.
  • Record subsequent lines. “Looking at all the ideas we have here, and the clues in the poem, which suggestion do you think may be correct?” Class discussion.

I usually repeat this with another Kennings poem. Below is a link to my exemplars and some examples on the internet. Choose poems that are a suitable fit for your class.

Examples for younger students

My exemplars (older students)

don’t mention the word exemplars

At this point I suggest the class write their own Kennings poems. Revisit my Juicy Writing success criteria

  • Write a minimum of five lines.
  • Record ideas in a list format (Students to glue a copy of an exemplar in their books).
  • Use at least one new descriptive word.
  • Avoid using dead words.
  • Make an honest attempt when spelling unknown words.

Strictly speaking each line in a Kennings should consist of two words that describe the chosen noun. I have taken liberties with the format. Trying to get some students to stick to a set format can be problematic. Be flexible!

  • Model writing with whole class, choose a noun,  make a word list that relates to that noun, use with class support to write poem, supports understanding.
  • Individual work, write drafts in books, (no idea is a bad idea, crossing ideas out, erasing work discouraged).
  • Teacher conferences with every student, supporting, correcting spelling, and offering positive feedback.
  • Student publishes on template.
  • Last ten minutes of lesson, encourage students to share poems with class … use clues to identify subject??
  • Poems published in self-made book. Students Kennings poems could be used in other classes to support the teaching of inference.

don’t mention the word template


As mentioned earlier in this post, when encouraging students to write poetry, I often take liberties with the format. A student happily scribbling down ideas, is a heart warming sight. Many of our reluctant writers have a vast array of excuses up their sleeve. Part of my ‘job spec’ is risk management.

motivation insertjpg#1

Footnote: Make sure you write the subject of the poem down somewhere (back of page?) Going over my notes today I have discovered a number of Kennings with no subjects! Oops!


About SharynFlack

Wife, Mother, Teacher (Relief), Frustrated Writer, Part Time Artist, Problem Solver
This entry was posted in Creative writing, Poetry, Teaching inference and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s