Another Great Poets – More Great Ideas

This is the second post (check here for the first one) where we get David Horner to suggest ways you might work with some well-known poems. In this post we are going to look at the poem ‘This Is The Hand’ by Michael Rosen. Then David has some ideas for how you might use this poem in your classroom.

This is the hand
that touched the frost
that froze my tongue
and made it numb

this is the hand
that cracked the nut
that went in my mouth
and never came out

this is the hand
that slid round the bath
to find the soap
that wouldn’t float

this is the hand
on the hot water bottle
meant to warm my bed
that got lost instead

this is the hand
that held the bottle
that let go of the soap
that cracked the nut
that touched the frost
this is the hand
that never gets lost

Michael Rosen

  • Once the children have heard the poem read over a few times get them to look at it a little closer. There is alliteration woven throughout. Children working in pairs with a copy of the poem and some coloured pens can colour-code the text to highlight alliterating words.
  • One of the poem’s appeal is its diction. There are only five words, out of a total of almost a hundred, that are more than one syllable! Those five words are all just two-syllable words. How quickly can pairs of children hunt these down? Can they suggest ways of rewriting any of the verses to achieve a poem made up wholly of monosyllables?
  • In all their writing children need to attend to issues of person and tense. The poem is third person throughout and past tense – right up to the switch to present tense for the very last verb. Can the children suggest a reason for this? Ask small groups to produce versions of some or all of the poem written variously in first and second person (e.g. I am the hand) or present and future tenses (e.g. … that will slide round the bath). How do such changes alter the poem as a whole? Which version do the class prefer.
  • Why not get the children to either write fresh versions on the subject as extensions of the original, or tackle a whole poem using the original’s overall structure, beginning, say, This is the foot
  • The structure is both a support and a challenge. I’ve had children writing poems featuring the five senses (This is the hand … eye, etc) and make a simple folded zigzag book with, say, This is the hand/leg/skin, and then by turning the paper inside out writing matching quatrains on some of the body’s inner workings: This is the blood/lung/brain
  • Equally enjoyable have been poems using the form for widely differing topics: I’ve seen This is my dad, This is the hamster, This is the rain, and so on. Probably the most touching was by a six-year-old who began:

This is my nana
who lives in a hospital
with lots of old people
and forgets our names

What can your children do?

If you would like to see more of David’s poetry ideas and workshops visit the Goodeyedeers section at TES Resources.

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