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Normanhurst Boys’ High School

English: Year 9

Poetry: Dead or
Alive
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race
is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty,
romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." – Dead Poets’ Society.

A unit by Claire Ormiston. With reference to Tyndale Christian School, Cherrybrook Technology High, Craig Schuftan, Jon Buckley, Amy
Pendino and Wagner Community School.
RATIONALE

The study of visual texts, including film, in addition to poetry, is an essential part of the English Stage 4-5
Syllabus.

This unit will continue to develop the skills the students will have been introduced to in Stage 4. Dead Poets’
Society is a film text that deals with issues of maturation, the individualism and conformity dichotomy and the
. It allows positive discussion and analyses of themes and issues relevant to the students own struggles. Dead
Poets’ Society is a film of a very high standard which utilises aural and visual techniques to produce a moving
and well-composed text.

In addition to this, students will study ‘dead poets’ and be introduced to the Romanticism era. A variety of
poets alluded to in the aforementioned film will be analysed. In addition to this, students will draw links
between Romantic Poets and contemporary ‘rock bands’ in terms of their content and values – hence the title
of the unit – Poetry: Dead or Alive.
OBJECTIVES
Through responding to and composing a wide range of texts in context and through close study of texts, students will
develop skills, knowledge and understanding in order to:

• Speak, listen, read, write, view and represent


• Use language and communicate appropriately and effectively
• Think in ways that are imaginative, interpretive and critical
• Learn and reflect on their learning through their study of English

A student:

1 responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts for understanding, interpretation, critical
analysis and pleasure

3 selects, uses, describes and explains how different technologies affect and shape meaning

4 selects and uses language forms and features, and structures of texts according to different purposes, audiences and
contexts, and describes and explains their effects on meaning

5 transfers understanding of language concepts into new and different contexts

7 thinks critically and interpretively using information, ideas and increasingly complex arguments to respond to and
compose texts in a range of contexts

8 investigates the relationships between and among texts

11 uses, reflects on, assesses and adapts their individual and collaborative skills for learning with increasing
independence and effectiveness.
Syllabu Learning and teaching activities Hand outs
s
content
7, 8 INTRODUCING THE UNIT FILM STUDY -
Texts, modes,
STARTER: What is conformity? Include both positive and negative elements to this. medium,
STARTER: What is it about films that makes it one of the biggest export industry in the world? composing and
responding
DISCUSSION: What pressures to conform do we all encounter in our lives? What are the
dangers of conformity? What are some positive elements of conformity?

Introduce Unit: Poetry: Dead or Alive – Studying film and Romanticist poetry.

In this unit students will:

Watch a film – Dead Poets’ Society. View and analyse key scenes looking for characterisation
and themes and the techniques used to express these. They will also be working towards
writing more sophisticated essay.

Read and respond to poetry. They will have a basic introduction to Romanticism – will be
linked to Gothic next term. Looking at poems and poetic techniques. Learning how to write
an essay with a focus on CONTEXT essay. Create a podcast linking these texts together as
well as writing an essay exploring these examples of poetry.

IN BOOKS: Title page, Student aims and outcomes for the unit, Establish a word bank of
useful words for this unit for students to refer back to and stick in hand out.

3, 4, 5 INTRODUCING THE FILM CHARACTERS hand


out.
STARTER: Think of some of the different films you know. What is an extreme close up
generally used for? Provide specific examples.

DISCUSSION: Why do we study film in English? Lead on to film study hand out.

Introduction to film - context, characters and general synopsis. Emphasise that students will
be referring back a lot to these sheets and must try to write a lot as there won’t be a time to
re-watch the film.

Students to copy down character names and general description from


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097165/ . Conversely give the students the “Characters” hand
out. You may wish to supplement this with the imdb site anyway as it has pictures.

i. Viewing guide questions.

ii. Techniques and effects sheet.

1, 3 WATCHING THE FILM Dead Poets Society


Viewing guide
Begin to watch the film. Distribute the DPS viewing guide. Students should write a short hand out.
paragraph into their books to answer each question. Stop start as you go, emphasising
quotes, techniques and themes. Students should have a page for noting down techniques. Techniques and
effects hand out.
a. The key scenes you should re-view for their symbolism, characterisation and use
of specific filmic techniques are: the opening scene, flight to the cave, Todd
discovering the poet within and the final Oh Captain my Captain.

1, 4, 7 KEY THEMES IN THE FILM

i. Conformity and belonging

ii. Identity and isolation

iii. Coming of age


a. Brainstorm these themes and their links to the text on the board.

b. In groups, students create tableaux representing these themes.

c. Students write in their work books about 150 words for each theme about its
importance to the film. Or alternatively these could be used as starters.

1, 4, 7 KEY SCENES IN THE FILM Oh captain my


captain sheet
STARTER: What do you think is the most important scene in the film and why? Link to the key
themes of the text.

a. Review – the opening scene, flight to the caves, Todd discovering the poet
within and the final Oh Captain my Captain.

3 Reflecting on the film: the use of visual and aural techniques.

STARTER: Describe how the music contributes to the atmosphere of the film. Refer to two
specific examples in your response.

a. Make a table to brainstorm the techniques Peter Weir uses in the film to make it
look like the 1950s and the techniques that are used to give the film a
“timeless” feel.

1 CHARACTERISATION The boys – their


choices and their
STARTER: Choose one particular character in the film. Why do you think he is important in the changes sheet.
film?
Characterisation in
film.

1 ALLUSION List of poetry in


STARTER: What is an allusion? Why does a composer generally use these? DPS

Explain how the following literary allusions are used in the film:

“Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” (Thoreau)

“Dare to strike out and find new ground.” (unknown)

“I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world.” (Whitman)

a. Computer lesson. Read three of the poems mentioned in the film. Try to
understand them for yourself – what do you think they are about? How is the
author conveying this?

b. Why do you think the writer of the film chose these poems to include? What
scene are they linked to? What happens in that scene?

1, 3 SYMBOLISM Symbolism in film

STARTER: What is symbolism? Why does a composer generally use these?

1, 4, 7 CONCLUDING THE FILM

STARTER: Thinking back on all the elements Peter Weir used to compose Dead Poets’,
what do you think the most effective was and why?

1, 3, 4, REALISM AND ROMANTICISM Web Resources


7
STARTER: What does it mean to call something romantic?

a. Share these responses, put some on the board to come back to later. Toward a Definition
of Romanticism
b. Show Statements that suggest or embody Romanticism. Discuss statements.
Students now write what they think Romanticism means as based on their http://www.history
understanding of these statements. guide.org/intellect/
romanticism.html
HOMEWORK/COMPUTER LESSON: Students read three sites on Romanticism and Realism.
Take notes. The History
Guide provides this
a. Brainstorm elements of Romanticism and discuss its history. Sheet of history if information about
you want it. Romanticism,
b. Define the word paradigm. Students define what Romanticists thought about all along with related
of these values. Internet resources.

Romanticism - Conventions, Values and Paradigms


Imagination / Idealism / Individualism and subjectivity / Nature / Symbolism and Myth / Main
features

Central features of Romanticism include:

An emphasis on emotional and imaginative spontaneity

The importance of self-expression and individual feeling. Romantic poetry is one of the heart and the
emotions, exploring the ‘truth of the imagination’ rather than scientific truth. The ‘I’ voice is central; it
is the poet’s perceptions and feelings that matter.

An almost religious response to nature. They were concerned that Nature should not just be seen
scientifically but as a living force, either made by a Creator, or as in some way divine, to be neglected
at humankind’s peril. Some of them were no longer Christian in their beliefs. Shelley was an atheist,
and for a while Wordsworth was apantheist (the belief that god is in everything). Much of their poetry
celebrated the beauty of nature, or protested the ugliness of the growing industrialization of the
century: the machines, factories, slum conditions, pollution and so on.

A capacity for wonder and consequently a reverence for the freshness and innocence of the vision of
childhood. See The world of the Romantics: Attitudes to childhood

Emphasis on the imagination as a positive and creative faculty

An interest in ‘primitive’ forms of art – for instance in the work of early poets (bards), in ancient ballads
and folksongs. Some of the Romantics turned back to past times to find inspiration, either to the
medieval period, or to Greek and Roman mythology. See Aspects of the Gothic: Gothic and the
medieval revival

An interest in and concern for the outcasts of society: tramps, beggars, obsessive characters and the
poor and disregarded are especially evident in Romantic poetry

An idea of the poet as a visionary figure, with an important role to play as prophet (in both political and
religious terms).

11, 1, 4 POEMS

a. Teachers present at least 4 of the poems from the film to students emphasising Is it Romantic?
form, context – both genre and of the composer and techniques used to convey sheet
these. Draw on students’ own knowledge of these poems throughout.

POD CAST TASK: Students in groups of three, script and record a discussion on the use of
poems in Dead Poets’ Society. They should include discussion of the film’s themes and the
romantic movement in poetry. They should record these and save as a mp3. Should be no
longer than 7 minutes.

PRACTICE ESSAY: How do the poems you have studied reflect the main paradigms of
Romanticism?