Poetry lesson: What do you hear?

Here’s a short poetry task that worked well with YLs and teens. It’s based on a poem from A Nest Full of Stars by James Berry.

Before you ask, no. I haven’t suddenly gone all NLP.  


  • Create a poem in the style of a famous poet
  • Review and practice adjectives to describe feelings
  • Practice mindfulness and ‘being present’

Optional lead-in, discuss poetry (might be dry for YLs but worked okay with the teens)

  • Do you like poetry? Why / Why not?
  • Do you know any famous poets from your country (or somewhere else)? If so, who?
  • Have you ever written a poem? If so, what was it about?
  • What are some typical features of poems?

More of a ‘hook’ lead-in for the YLS…

My examples were my kid crying, my mum humming, and a gecko’s ‘TUUUKKKAY’. I definitely wouldn’t miss the sound of my kid crying, I was just out of ideas.


Close your eyes. What do you hear?

(giggling, Mr Pete saying ‘what do you hear?’, the air con, then more interesting answers should flow…)


(you need a pic of lying in bed, standing at the beach, and walking in a forest. My first pic here was a bit rubbish).

Introduce the poem ‘Hearing’ by James Berry.

Optional, some info about poet. I included this as the Year 4 students were looking at his patois poems and poets background so chance for EAL learners to share any probs with these concepts.

Then the poem…

I lie in bed.

Sounds of a distant train passing

make me feel

at home and snug.

I walk in a woodland lane.

Song of a blackbird high up

makes me feel


I sit, looking out over the sea.

Sounds of high and flattened waves

make me hear

wind in the hilly trees.

(James Berry, 2002)

Discussion, eg…

  • initial response to poem
  • check predictions
  • discuss/teach/guess unknown words
  • draw attention to structure*

*We just looked at tense (highlighting speaker ‘in the moment’) and parallel structure/repetition.


Act out the poem in groups.

Controlled practice

Go back to that ‘Close your eyes, what can you hear?’

Elicit a full paragraph from learners based on structure.

Task prep

Students think of 5 or so locations around the school they’d like to visit. Mine chose…

  • basketball courts/sports hall
  • reception
  • the Deputy Head’s office
  • the languages corridor
  • the Primary field

We go to each place. Sit, close our eyes for a minute or so, listen. Then make notes on what we heard and how we felt.


  • Write a poem in the style of James Berry. Three stanzas, three locations. Add visuals if you want.
  • Perform the poem.
  • Possibly display the poems in the various locations around the school, prompting other students to read them.

Feedback, etc


  • For online learning, students can choose three locations around the house.
  • Rather than individual, do the task as a class poem.
  • Students can choose one location only and ask multiple students/staff to contribute one stanza each.
  • Create a video of poem with accompanying visuals.
  • Write a poem in this style but for a different sense, e.g. ‘Seeing’/’Touching’. Think about what needs to be replaced, e.g. ‘The sound of…’ becomes…?

Categories: Lesson Ideas, other, vocabulary

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