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Collins Poetry Pack 17/4/07 16:03 Page 117


LESSON 3: Out of this world

Poem: ‘A Martian Sends a Postcard Home’, Craig Raine

Framework Objectives: Learning Objective:

Year 7, Reading 8 Infer and deduce To read and enjoy the poem, explore the
meanings using evidence in the text, images the poet has created, then add
identifying where and how meanings are images to the poem in the style of the
implied original
Year 7, Writing 8 Experiment with the
visual and sound effects of language,
including the use of imagery

This wonderful poem about modern life mixes quirky humour with reflective observations
that are tinged with sadness.

Resources and lesson preparation

Worksheet 34: Match the images
Music and/or Earth image from CD-ROM
Images of household objects/collection of mixed household objects on CD-ROM
Copies of the poem

Have the class enter to appropriate music, such as the theme from Star Wars, ‘Mars’ from
the Planets Suite (Holst), Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (used in the film 2001:
A Space Odyssey).
Display the image of Earth from space on the interactive whiteboard or display a poster with
a similar image.
Then, either:
■ present the class with the photographs of ordinary household objects taken from unusual
angles – students have to work out what the images are.
■ show the class a variety of household objects (e.g. a corkscrew, egg-beater, stapler,
glass paperweight). Pick up any object and mime using the object in any way apart from
its intended function (e.g. a corkscrew becomes a dentist’s drill). Nominate students at
random (taking names from a hat?) and ask them to do the same for each of the other
Both these activities encourage students to see objects in unusual ways.

Read the poem and discuss the idea that a Martian has come to Earth and sees things that
are usual to us with new eyes.
‘Decode’ the images and descriptions – what does each refer to? To do this, provide
students (in pairs or small groups) with a set of cards from Worksheet 34, and ask them to
place the cards next to the appropriate lines in the poem. (Alternatively use ICT Activity 1,
which asks students to rearrange the image tiles into the order in which the Martian
mentions them in the poem).

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Talk about the effectiveness of each image, and also how each has been viewed differently
by the Martian (i.e. the book is seen as a bird, etc.) Note: you may need to explain ‘Caxtons’
– referring to books, after William Caxton, the inventor of the printing press.

Working individually or in the same groups, ask students to invent their own images to add
to the poem. For example, how would the Martian describe: computers, sports, the sea,
school, a can of fizzy drink, an MP3 player?
Ask students to write their own ‘postcards home’, echoing the poet’s style as closely as
possible, i.e. with a cool, observational style as if observing humans from some invisible
vantage point. Also, if they are writing about several images, can they imitate the style by
writing in non-rhymed couplets that are sometimes self-contained (like ‘rain’) but sometimes
slip into the next couplet (as in the final four lines)?

Swap the ‘postcards’ so that each pair of students receives ideas written by other students
that they have not seen before. (If possible, ask students to email their ideas to each other –
this will further develop the concept of messages being conveyed through space.) Students
then have to work out what the other students’ images refer to.
Gather recommended images together on the board to create the class’s own version of the

Suggestions for writing

Ask students to reverse the process – as if they are on a visit to Mars. They should send a
postcard back to Earth, describing what they see in as much detail as possible.

● This poem could be compared to Dr Xargle’s Book of Earthlets by Jeanne Willis. Both
play on the idea that what is ordinary to us could seem extraordinary to alien beings.
● John Cooper Clarke’s ‘i wanna be yours’ (Rhythm and Blues, Lesson 14) also employs
ordinary household objects, though to different effect.
● Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift contains a passage when the Lilliputians remove
objects from Gulliver’s pockets for inspection, unaware of their true function.

118 Teachit KS3 Interactive Pack © HarperCollinsPublishers 2007. This page may be photocopied for use in the classroom.
Collins Poetry Pack 17/4/07 16:03 Page 119

WORKSHEET 34: Match the images

Teachit KS3 Interactive Pack © HarperCollinsPublishers 2007. This page may be photocopied for use in the classroom. 119
Collins Poetry Pack 17/4/07 16:03 Page 120

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home
Craig Raine
Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings –
they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.
I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.
Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:
then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.
Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.
Model T is a room with the lock inside –
a key is turned to free the world
for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.
But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.
In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.
If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep
with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.
Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room
with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises
alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.
At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs
and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

120 Teachit KS3 Interactive Pack © HarperCollinsPublishers 2007. This page may be photocopied for use in the classroom.

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