Introductory activities

Unless otherwise indicated all quotations from the text come from the Australian Classics: Kenneth Slessor Selected Poems, Angus and Robertson, 2014

Write the following quatrain from Kenneth Slessor’s poem ‘Lesbia’s Daughter’ on the board. Have students use a think-pair-share strategy to discuss two questions:

  1. What makes these 31 words poetry?
  2. What might the poet be suggesting about the permanence of love?  Do you agree with him?

                    Lovers’ abodes with poets’ words are paved,

                    But prudent girls would get those vows engraved,

                    For brass than paper being something stronger

                    May last, it’s more than like, a fortnight longer.

Invite students to complete the following poetry opinionaire. Explain to them that it is a short survey designed to help them consider their current thinking about reading and writing poetry, particularly the ways in which their ideas about poetry have been shaped by their previous school experiences studying it. Have students indicate whether they agree (A) or disagree (D) with the following statements. Remind students that this should be completed as an individual task.

  1. Poetry is difficult to understand.
  2. Reading poetry aloud and performing it is fun.
  3. Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.
  4. The secret of poetry is never explained to students.
  5. The best poetry uses rhyme and rhythm.
  6. A teacher’s lesson on a poem often destroys it.
  7. All good poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.
  8. A love of poetry is one of life’s great delights.
  9. We should always read a poem several times in order to fully understand it.
  10. Most poets write to reflect upon their lives, interests and concerns.

After having completed the opinionaire, have students form small groups to share their findings. Ask them to focus on the statements where different points of view exist. Have them discuss their different opinions and attempt to reach consensus. Require each group to share some of their thinking with the whole class.

Invite students to form another small group to discuss the following statements about the enduring value of poetry. Have them rank the statements in order of most agreement to least agreement.

  • One cannot love poetry and be a bad person.
  • Poetry offers us the best thoughts of the best minds.
  • Reading and writing poetry is a pleasure, but a pleasure from hell.
  • Poetry teaches us about the human experience in ways that other textual forms can never emulate.
  • Poetry is language used in its highest form.
  • The best poetry will be read forever.
  • Poetry offers us words of goodness, truth and beauty.

Use a numbered heads strategy to have each group share their highest and lowest ranked statements with other members of the class. Have students write a 150-word journal entry in which they attempt to clarify their current thinking about importance of reading of poetry at the beginning of 21st century.
(ACELT1640)  (EN5-5C)

Slessor, contextual understanding and meaning-making

Inform students that they will undertake a close study of the life and poetry of the great twentieth century Australian poet Kenneth Slessor, author of ‘Five Bells’ which was voted by 2008 ABC listeners as Australia’s favourite poem. Use the Australian Dictionary of Biography to provide students with some brief biographical information about Slessor’s life. Place particular emphasis on Slessor’s cultural background, his interest in music and literature, his career as a journalist, editor and war correspondent, his religious influences and his love of Sydney, its harbour and the sea.

Explain the concept of contextual understanding to students i.e. how the social, cultural and historical context in which a text is both produced and consumed shapes its meaning. Inform students that Kenneth Slessor crafted nearly all of his poetry between 1917 and 1944, a period in Australian history dominated by the effects of two major world wars, economic depression and significant social change.

Use the following contrasting statements to remind students about the importance of understanding ‘how’ a text may mean rather than simply ‘what’ it may mean.

Several children were slaughtered in a shopping centre today by a crazed, gun-wielding terrorist.

Two children died today at the Western Shopping Centre.

Explain to students that a reader’s beliefs, values and life experiences shape their interpretations of texts, and that meaning-making, particularly in the poetic field, is often personal. Share with students Kenneth Slessor’s statement about his own poetry, which he made in a lecture at the University of NSW in 1965, just six years before his death.

It is difficult for any writer to discuss his own verse, mainly because of the problem of deciding where the boundary lies between the personal associations and meanings which certain words produce in him and those which they produce in the reader. In any case, the very act of analysing emotional documents composed twenty or thirty years ago is often impossible for the author – he may feel that he is in the position of a paleontologist asked to report on a specimen of fossilized fern. (Kenneth Slessor Selected Poems p. 130)

Have students discuss what Slessor means. Ensure that they understand the concepts of personal association and connotation. Have them consider the ways in which Slessor’s view may influence their future reading of poetry.
(ACELA1567)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELY1752)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-5C)

Performing ‘Cannibal Street’

Perform Slessor’s poem ‘Cannibal Street’ (PDF, 62KB) for students. Make it come alive for them; entertain them. Have some fun with its rich, alliterative sounds. Invite students to perform their own version of the poem to another class.

Cannibal Street

“Buy, who’ll buy,” the pedlar sings,

               “Bones of beggars, loins of kings,

                Ribs of murder, haunch of hate,

                And Beauty’s head on a butcher’s plate!”


               Hook by hook, on steaming stalls

               The hero hangs, the harlot sprawls;

               For Helen’s flesh, in such a street,

               Is only a kind of dearer meat.


               “Buy, who’ll buy,” the pedlar begs,

               “Angel-wings and lady-legs,

                Tender bits and dainty parts –

                Buy, who’ll buy my skewered hearts?”


                Buy, who’ll buy? The cleavers fall,

               The dead men creak, the live men call,

               And I (God save me) bargained there,

               Paid my pennies and ate my share.


In addition to ‘Cannibal Street,’ invite students to present a multi-voice or dramatic reading of the poem ‘Glubbdubdrib.’ Provide students with some introductory information about Jonathan Swift’s classic text Gulliver’s Travels, before they undertake this task.
(ACELT1641)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1751)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-2A)

A close reading strategy

Provide students with copies of five of Slessor’s poems: ‘Country Towns’, ‘William Street’, ‘South Country’, ‘Bushranger’, and ‘Wild Grapes’. Ensure that each poem is centred on a separate A4 page with sufficient white space around it to allow for considered annotation. Read each of the five poems aloud to students, focusing particularly on the rich sounds in them. Invite selected students to re-read a poem to their peers. Read each poem aloud a second time.

Ask students to select two poems that had most impact on them. Have them complete this statement: ‘I enjoyed this poem because_____________’

Invite them to share their initial thoughts about one poem with a partner. Inform students that close reading of poetry is essential for its enjoyment and appreciation. Explain to them that one of the best strategies to assist close reading is careful annotation. Model for students the ways in which underlining, circling, ticking, crossing, colouring, drawing bubbles, highlighting, making response statements, arrowing, linking, marking and framing questions can all be used to annotate poems (or any text for that matter). Have students spend at least fifteen minutes annotating their two poems. Form collaborative groups of two, three or four students based on commonly annotated poems. Ask students to share and explain their annotations. Tell them to gather at least five further ideas about their poem from other students.


Text, meaning and the writer’s craft

Learning task 1

Explain to students that one of the reasons why Kenneth Slessor’s poetry has endured and is much appreciated is because of its originality, sophistication and modernity. Tell students that to some extent, Slessor re-imagined Australia’s physical and human landscape when he wrote the bulk of his poetry during the 1920s and 1930s.

Provide students with a copy of ‘William Street’ and share the following information about its subject matter:

  • The poem was written in 1935 during the Great Depression, a time in Australian history where many people struggled to find employment.
  • William Street is located in King’s Cross, a red light district in Sydney.
  • At the time, William Street was lit by neon lights and home to fish shops, cafes, public houses and brothels.
  • Explain that a ‘dip’ was a contemporary term for an alcoholic and that the word ‘moll’ was used to describe a prostitute.
  • Slessor wrote the poem to highlight the ways in which Australia’s urban landscapes had the same beauty as the more romanticised Australian outback.

Work through the poem with students, with a particular emphasis on its subject matter and themes. Highlight Slessor’s use of the simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, second and first person repetition, rhyme and concrete colour imagery.

Have students write a 150-word response to the following question:

  • What did Slessor consider to be the appeal of William Street, Sydney in 1935?

(ACELA1566)   (ACELA1567)   (ACELA1570)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-8D)

Learning task 2 

Provide students with a copy of Slessor’s poem ‘Country Towns.’ Have students work in small collaborative groups to address the following questions:

  1. How does Slessor use rhyme and rhythm in the opening stanza to establish a sleepy, quiet, laid back atmosphere about his universal country town?
  2. In what ways does the broadsheet lie in stanza two?
  3. What is the effect of the poet’s use of ‘d’ sounds in the third stanza?
  4. Why does the poet find the idea of sleep quite seductive in the final stanza?
  5. How does the poem appeal to our senses of sight, smell and hearing?
  6. Kenneth Slessor once described his poem ‘Country Towns’ as a simple Australian bucolic (or pastoral poem). How well does he imagine a typical Australian country town?

Invite students to share their findings about the poem in a whole class discussion. Have them reflect on the ways in which this poem is different from the traditional bush ballads of A. B. Paterson.
(ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1643)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)

Learning task 3

Work through the remaining three ‘re-imagining Australia’ poems with students: ‘South Country,’ ‘Bushranger,’ and ‘Wild Grapes’, focusing particularly on subject matter, theme, tone, mood and Slessor’s extensive use of poetic devices. Have students reflect on the ways in which Kenneth Slessor’s poetry represents the physical and human landscape of Australia.
(ACELA1570)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-6C)

Learning task 4 

Explain to students that many of Kenneth Slessor’s best poems focus on the themes of time and death, two important ideas central to the human condition. The march of time undermines us all and death is our inescapable common companion.

Remind students that Slessor was a war correspondent in World War II and wrote the poem ‘Beach Burial’ to commemorate the nameless dead sailors who were washed ashore after the battles at El Alamein in 1942. The poem is both an elegy for those who died and a much wider condemnation of the destruction and futility of war.

Introduce students to the importance of understanding of tone and mood in poetry.

Tone is the attitude adopted by the poet towards his or her subject matter; the reader may discern the poet’s tone by the type of syntax and vocabulary used in the poem. Tone may be described by words such as sad, solemn, sombre, humorous, amused, angry, playful, neutral, gloomy, conciliatory, resigned, cheerful, ironic, suspicious, witty, intimate, condescending, approving, bitter, conversational or threatening.

Mood is the prevailing feeling or atmosphere in the poem, particularly at its beginning where it often creates a sense of expectation of what is to follow. Mood may be described by words such as idealistic, reflective, romantic, realistic, optimistic, pessimistic, gloomy, mournful, sorrowful, joyous, peaceful, tender, nostalgic, haunting, warm or light-hearted.

Read the poem ‘Beach Burial’ aloud to students at least three times. Attempt to capture the poem’s dominant mood in the reading. Invite students to annotate the poem and share their initial responses with a partner.

Lead a class discussion of the poem focusing on the following questions:

  1. In the first stanza what is happening to the dead sailors? Why do you think they are described as moving in convoys?
  2. What kind of noise is suggested by the phrase ‘the sob and clubbing of the gunfire…’? Why does the poet suggest that the dead sailors are buried in burrows?
  3. What is the poet describing in the line: ‘And each cross, the driven stake of tide-wood…’?
  4. Why does the ghostly pencil waver and fade?
  5. What is the meaning of the phrase ‘the sand joins them together…’?

Have students work in small groups to reach consensus about what they believe to be the tone and mood of ‘Beach Burial.’

Share with students the following statement that Kenneth Slessor made about ‘Beach Burial.’ Provide some historical context about the Second World War, particularly the events of 1942.

Many of the inquiries from students about this poem have asked the meaning of its last words ‘other front’. The superficial meaning, of course, is a military one. The verses were written at a time when there was pressure on the Allies to open a ‘second front’ against the Germans.

However, there is a deeper implication which is really the theme of the poem. It is the idea that all men of all races, whether they fight with each other or not, are engaged together on the common ‘front’ of humanity’s existence. The absolute fact of death unites them. Their hatred, quarrels and wars should be dwarfed by the huger human struggle to survive against disease and cataclysms on this dangerous planet. (Kenneth Slessor Selected Poems p. 140)

Have students decide which of the following statements best describes their understanding of the poem.

  • The poem is an indictment of war, its futility and horrors.
  • The poem reminds us of the brevity and insignificance of life.
  • The poem suggests that people share a common humanity.
  • The poem is about remembering the dead.

(ACELA1566)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)

Learning task 5 

Read Slessor’s poem ‘The Night-Ride’ aloud to students, taking particular care to capture the evocative sounds which dominate the text.

List three open questions on the board that you may have had as a first time reader of the poem. For example:

  • Why are the engines yawning?
  • What makes the travellers sinister?
  • What is the real mystery of Rapptown?

Remind students that the question is often the answer. Read the poem aloud a second time. Have students frame three of their own open questions that they wish to have answered about the poem. Require students to complete this task without discussion. Invite students to form pairs and share their questions. Have them attempt to answer each other’s questions. Ask each pair to reach consensus about the two questions with which they may still be grappling.

Have pairs form collaborative groups of four. Have members of the group discuss the four questions, again trying to answer them. Ask each group to determine one big question about the poem that they wish to have answered. Record the resulting five to seven big questions on the board. Answer them for the students as you lead a discussion about the poem; alternatively, take the questions away and prepare your response before the next lesson.
(ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)

Learning task 6

Introduce students to ‘Out Of Time’, in many ways a quintessential Slessor poem with its focus on the enthralling and destructive aspects of time and set on his beloved Sydney Harbour.

Read the poem aloud to students several times and have them spend at least 15 minutes annotating it (both individually and with a partner).

Teaching points could include the:

  • personification of Time;
  • use of extended metaphor (Time’s relentless progress);
  • the poem’s evocative imagery – ‘foxed with air’, ‘bitter slats’, ‘quince-bright’, ‘sweet meniscus’ and ‘this lovely moment’;
  • the sonnet form (PDF, 66KB), including the use of concluding couplets, rhyme schemes and rhythm (particularly iambic pentameter but also the ways in which the poem’s many irregular rhythms evoke its subject matter);
  • linkage of the sonnets and the poem’s circular form.

(ACELA1566)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)


Synthesising tasks

After the close reading of the preceding eight poems, invite students to work in pairs to reflect on their developing understanding of Slessor’s poetry. Have them decide upon the two poems that they have most enjoyed reading. For one of the poems, have students write at least fifteen dot points about it. Suggest that students focus their dot point summaries on the following:

  • the poem’s subject matter,
  • its central ideas and issues,
  • its tone and mood,
  • Slessor’s use of poetic devices,
  • the impact of the poem on them at a more personal level.

Provide students with an A4 sheet of paper and ask them to draw the second poem. Invite students to explain their representations to their partner.
(ACELA1566)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)

Ways of reading texts

Kenneth Slessor’s iconic standing in Australia’s literary heritage is founded on the ways in which he turned Australian poetry to the modern, his breadth of thematic concerns and his control over poetic technique, particularly his use of sound devices and concrete imagery.

Slessor’s poetry explores a range of ideas and issues such as: loneliness, sleep, place, the past, art and beauty, the city, death, despair, the sea, immortality and remembrance. But it is the theme of time that is most central to his writing. There is no better illustration of Slessor’s concern with time than his much-loved poem ‘Five Bells,’ voted by ABC listeners in 2008 as Australia’s favourite poem. It is fair to say that there is general agreement that ‘Five Bells’ is one of the greatest of all Australian poems.

Write the following literary inquiry question on the board: What makes a great poem?

Invite students to think about this big question and then have them test their initial thinking on a partner. Lead a whole class discussion about some of the qualities of good poetry.

Tell students that in March 2011, the 702 ABC Sydney Book Club compiled a list of Australia’s best poems. The top ten were as follows:

  1. ‘Five Bells’ by Kenneth Slessor
  2. ‘My Country’ by Dorothea MacKellar
  3. ‘Bell-Birds’ by Henry Kendall
  4. ‘Ordinary Australians’ by Tug Dumbly
  5. ‘Woman to Child’ by Judith Wright (Note the Reading Australia teaching resource for Wright)
  6. ‘Speed, a Pastoral’ by John Forbes
  7. ‘Barn Owl’ by Gwen Harwood (Note the Reading Australia teaching resource for Harwood)
  8. ‘Dusk’ by C. J. Dennis
  9. ‘The Death of the Bird’ by A. D. Hope (Note the Reading Australia teaching resource for Hope)
  10. ‘The Bulahdelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle’ by Les Murray (Note the Reading Australia teaching resource for Murray)

Provide students a brief overview of these other poems/poets. Have them consider how objective any such ranking can be. For example, who voted? Who did not vote? How many people voted? Why did people vote? Some Sydney bias?
(ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1752)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)

Other versions of ‘Five Bells’

‘I am in the sea-harbour, and the sea-harbour is in me.’ With these words, John Olsen’s 1963 painting Five Bells captures the essence of Kenneth Slessor’s best-known poem. Or does it?

Introduce the concept of intertextuality to students. Explain how meaning-making relies strongly on intertextuality – on a text’s similarity to, and connections with, other texts. Remind students that intertextuality is strongly dependent on shared cultural knowledge – as members of a culture we recognise ways of thinking or being, we understand the ways in which text forms adhere to particular conventions (i.e. they are carefully constructed) and we appreciate how one text can make allusions or references to another. For example, how would our understanding of the Shrek films be different without a shared knowledge of fairy tales?

Have students ‘read’ Olsen’s painting through the lens of intertextuality and speculate about the subject matter of Slessor’s ‘Five Bells.’ Create a list of possibilities on the board.

Inform students that the title, and one of the epigraphs for Gail Jones’s fifth novel, Five Bells first published in 2011, and included on the Reading Australia site, also comes from Slessor’s much-loved meditation on time and memory. Jones’s novel shares the poem’s elegiac tone and Sydney Harbour setting. ‘Five Bells’ has also inspired other novels and several musical compositions.

Show students the 1978 Film Australia documentary film by director Dean Semler, also titled Five Bells. Highlight the ways in which the film connects to Kenneth Slessor’s harbour life.

Share Bruce Dawe’s poem ‘Elegy For Drowned Children’ with students. In what ways does this poem connect to ‘Five Bells’?

Share Paul Kelly’s incantation of ‘Five Bells’ from his 2012 album Conversations with Ghosts. How effectively has Paul Kelly interpreted ‘Five Bells’?
(ACELA1566)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)

Evaluating Five Bells

Introduce ‘Five Bells’ to students by having them listen to actor Robert Menzies read the poem aloud. Given the length and complexity of the poem, read ‘Five Bells’ aloud to students a second and third time. Give students ample time to annotate it. Encourage some personal writing in response to it before any significant discussion takes place.

Provide students with a copy of ‘Five Bells’ and share the following information about its subject matter:

  • It was one of Slessor’s final poems, written over several years and published in 1939.
  • It commemorates (and mourns) the death of Slessor’s artist friend Joe Lynch who drowned in Sydney Harbour in 1927 after falling from a ferry.
  • It is an elegiac poem with a pensive, reflective, sombre mood.
  • The five bells refer to the 12 hours of a ship’s day or night which are divided into watches of four hours counted from midday or midnight; five bells sound at 10.30 am or 10.30 pm.
  • The poem connects intertextually with an Arabian fairytale where a man momentarily dips his head into a basin of magic water and imagines a voyage across the seven seas.
  • In the words of Slessor himself: ‘[the poem] suggests that the whole span of a human life can be imagined, and even vicariously experienced, in a flash of thought as brief as the interval between the strokes of a bell.’ (Kenneth Slessor Selected Poems p. 136)

Work through the poem with students, with an emphasis on its subject matter and themes, particularly time, memory and death.

Have students consider how effectively Slessor juxtaposes the five seconds that it takes to ring the ship’s bells and the thirty years of Joe Lynch’s life.

Invite students to reflect on the reasons why ‘Five Bells’ is a major poem in the Australian literary canon.
(ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)

Slessor’s language devices and techniques

Introduce the poem ‘Sleep’ to students. Read it aloud several times and invite students to spend time annotating it. Lead students to an understanding that the poem compares sleep with several aspects of life – the unconsciousness of sleep, the preconsciousness of life in the womb and the awakening that is birth itself.

Inform students that Slessor crafted the poem partly as: ‘an experiment in the narcotic effect of the repetition of certain consonant-structures and vowel sounds.’ (Kenneth Slessor Selected Poems p. 140). Sound patterning is central to ‘Sleep,’ and the poem showcases Slessor’s control over language devices and poetic technique.

Highlight for example:

  1. the personification of sleep as a mother;
  2. the use of repetition to give a hypnotic, soporific voice to sleep;
  3. the use of rhyme – end, half and internal;
  4. the use of metaphor;
  5. the significant use of assonance, particularly the repeated long ‘u’ sounds;
  6. the use of alliteration, particularly ‘c’, ‘b’ and ‘d’ sounds;
  7. the effects of rhythm, particularly how it changes in the final stanza;
  8. the use of italics to isolate the words ‘Yes, utterly’ from the remainder of the poem;
  9. the poet’s use of diction, particularly the ways in which more obscure words such as: ‘lave’, ‘riving’, ‘viewless valves’, ‘pang’ and ‘delve’ are used.

Invite students to re-read some of Slessor’s other poems and reflect on the ways in which he controls language devices and poetic techniques. Remind them that Slessor had a deep appreciation of the ‘quality of magic’ found in poetic language.
(ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (EN5-3B)

Slessor’s enduring legacy

Remind students that Kenneth Slessor is now generally acknowledged as perhaps the finest and most important of Australia’s modern poets. Such is Slessor’s standing within literary circles that the poetry section of the annual NSW Premier’s Literary Awards was named in his honour in 1980. The Kenneth Slessor Prize ($30,000) is offered to a poet for a book of collected poems or for a single poem of substantial length published in book form.

Have students reflect on why the poetry prize in this prestigious competition was named the Kenneth Slessor Prize.

Have students reflect on their reading and close study of Kenneth Slessor’s poetry and consider the extent to which they agree with each of the following statements (PDF, 69KB).

  • Slessor’s poems are marked by strong rhyme, rhythm, assonance and alliteration.
  • Slessor’s imagery is precise, concrete and often sensuous.
  • Slessor wrote distinctly Australian poetry.
  • Slessor was a traditional poet with a modern eye.
  • Slessor’s thematic concerns remain relevant in the twenty-first century.

(ACELT1640)   (EN5-5C)


Rich assessment tasks

Have students complete three rich assessment tasks – two creating and one responding – to showcase their understanding of Slessor’s poetry.

Rich assessment task 1 (Creating)

Have students reflect on their reading of Kenneth Slessor’s poetry during the unit and ask them to decide upon the poem which made the greatest impact on them. Perhaps this poem connected with their personal lives; perhaps it touched them or moved them in some way. Inform students that they are required to create a visual text which showcases their understanding of their favourite Slessor poem.

Ask students to word process a copy of the poem and publish it in an arresting way by manipulating font, size, spacing, colour, justification, bolding, italicising and/or underlining for effect. Invite students to add an image to the poem which complements its subject matter and theme(s).

Have students write a 400-word explanation about the visual text they have constructed. Their written explanation should be carefully drafted, edited and proofread and address the following questions.

  • What textual form have you created?
  • What is the purpose of your text?
  • Who is the intended audience for the text?
  • How have you manipulated font, size, spacing, colour, justification, bolding, italicising and/or underlining in your text. Why have you made these aesthetic choices?
  • In what ways does your chosen image complement the poem’s subject-matter and theme/s?
  • To what extent do you believe your text meets the demands of audience and purpose?
  • How would Kenneth Slessor react to your interpretation of his poem?

Provide feedback to students as they create their visual text and write their explanation.

Make explicit the success criteria for this task (these should be drawn from the year 10 AC English achievement standards).

Invite students to share their creations with their peers in a small group. Share some of the more arresting publications with the whole class. Display the print texts in the classroom.
(ACELA1566)   (ACELA1567)   (ACELA1572)   (ACELY1757)   (ACELY1776)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)

Rich assessment task 2 (Creating)

Ask students to work in pairs to reflect on their understanding of the two major themes explored in their study of Slessor’s poetry – ‘time and death’ or ‘re-imagining Australia.’ Have them choose one of these themes and select three poems that they believe best illustrate Slessor’s thematic concern.

Have students work collaboratively to produce a three-minute PhotoStory to showcase their understanding of this theme. The students’ PhotoStory should include some introductory slides about the life and times of Kenneth Slessor, particularly the ways in which his beliefs, values and experiences may have shaped his poetry writing/thematic concern.

Remind students that they will present their PhotoStory to an audience of their peers. They will also be required to give a two-minute introduction to the PhotoStory where they explain some of the creative processes underpinning the construction of their text.

Provide feedback to students as they construct their PhotoStory.

Make explicit the success criteria for this task (these should be drawn from the year 10 AC English achievement standards).
(ACELT1640)   (ACELT1644)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1751)   (ACELY1756)   (ACELY1757)   (ACELY1776)   (ACELY1813)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-3B)

Rich assessment task 3 (Responding)

Invite students to write a formal appreciation of ‘Beach Burial’, ‘The Night-Ride’, ‘Country Towns’ or ‘William Street’. Alternatively, students could write about another poem from Selected Poems or even about a poem from beyond the anthology, such as ‘Skis and She’s’ where Slessor explores gender issues in a playful way. This poem is published in Sense, Shape, Symbol – An Investigation of Australian Poetry, edited by Bryan Keyte, Phoenix Education 2012.

Explain the requirements of formal poetry analysis. Inform students that are required to write an extended 750-word analysis of the poem, determining how effectively Slessor has crafted the poem and engaged his readers. Remind them that the following questions should be used to help frame their responses.

  • What is the subject-matter of the poem?
  • What are the main themes of the poem?
  • What tone of voice is employed by the poet?
  • What is the predominant mood of the poem?
  • How effectively has the poem been crafted?
  • What is your personal reaction to the poem?
  • How successful is the poem as a work of art?

Provide all students with feedback as they complete first drafts of their writing.

Make explicit the success criteria for this extended poetry analysis (these should be drawn from the year 10 AC English achievement standards).
(ACELA1570)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-6C)


Reflecting on learning

Invite students to reflect in writing about what they have learned about the life, times, poetry and enduring legacy of Kenneth Slessor. This could take the form of a 300-word letter written for future Year 10 students who may study Slessor the following year.

Invite all students to provide the teacher with feedback about the three rich assessment tasks and the reflection on their learning.

  • How engaging were each of the assessment tasks?
  • In what ways could they be improved?
  • What did you do well in in each assessment task?
  • What do you need to focus on the next time you undertake this type of learning?