Be Near Me

      This extract from Andrew O’Hagan’s novel, Be Near Me, is centred around a boat trip that the narrator – a priest – is taking with two of his young parishioners. Mark, a 15-year-old boy, is recalling a football match that, temporarily, seemed to bring him a little closer to his father.

      The boat trip itself seems to cast a magical spell on the trio. Will they be the same afterwards?

      Baby Scorpion

      Francesca Beard's poem, Baby Scorpion, deals with transformation and consequence.  A baby scorpion crawls from a burning log in front of a couple who are keeping warm by the fire.  At first the girl feels pity for the small creature's vulnerability but then imagines it as a grown scorpion and the danger it would pose.

      Her lover kills it but it appears again, to rise as a ghost.  The poem would appear to end with the death of the two lovers, and of the fire itself.  Everything is consumed.


      Sinéad Morrissey's poem, Genetics, gives us a wistful recollection of the poet as a celebration of the coming together of her parents. The key line in the poem – repeated at the beginning and the end of the poem – is I know my parents made me by my hands (which appears in the plural as the final line of the poem).

      From the poem we understand that her parents are no longer together – repelled to separate lands – but that she, the daughter, can celebrate their marriage by her e


      Gillian Clarke's poem, Lament, is an elegy, an expression of grief. It can be a sad, military tune played on a bugle. The poem uses the title as the start of a list of lamented people, events, creatures and other things hurt in the war. All the details in the poem came from reports in the media.

      You can download the student worksheet and teacher’s notes below. You can also listen to the audio and read the transcript.

      The Same Earth

      This extract from Kei Miller's novel, The Same Earth, tells the story of Jonathon and his supposed drowning in the river. The children of the village rush back to report Jonathon's disappearance, with just his shoes by the river bank. Local legend seems to dictate what happened.

      The story, as the novel, is set in Jamaica, and some of the language reflects the way that English is spoken in parts of the Caribbean.

      The Chain

      This extract is taken from Keith Gray's novel, The Chain. The extract deals with a young girl who gets engrossed in reading from a book to her father, who is dying in hospital. She is discovering the inner joy and power of books.

      When her father dies she wonders what to do with the book that bound them so closely together in his last days.

      Stone Cradle

      This extract from Louise Doughty's novel, Stone Cradle, concerns the tragedy of infant mortality, particularly in vulnerable communities where the poorest members don't have the means to bury their babies.  This vignette from the novel gives us a graveside view of secret burials carried out by a vicar helping the most impoverished in the community.

      It is told by a young woman who is herself pregnant and whose unborn child is thus at risk from the sickness sweeping the village.

      Interactive listening and speaking

      Despite the fact that most communication is face-to-face, most listening material does not train students to cope with this.

      Below you will find ideas that you can use with lower-level and higher-level students to develop their interactive listening skills and as a result their ability to interact.

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