Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars

Inua Ellam's poem, Candy Coated Unicorns And Converse All Stars, is a dark look at the plight of individuals set against violence, both of a domestic and of a general nature. One of the protagonists in the poem has been beaten by her boyfriend. Against this there are images conjured, ranging from environmental degradation through to war.

Hope is offered in the form of dreams ('a candy coated unicorn') and aspiration ('we are powerful beyond measure').

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.

Using poems to develop productive skills

You and your students might already enjoy reading and listening to poetry in your own language and perhaps in English too. Poems are, after all, authentic texts.

This is a great motivator. Poems are often rich in cultural references, and they present a wide range of learning opportunities.

Average: 4.1 (140 votes)

Kids and poetry

Poetry is a great tool to use with your students as it helps practise not only listening, speaking, reading and writing skills all together, but stretches students’ imaginations too.

Using poetry in the classroom may seem daunting at first, but below you’ll find steps and tips to help you get your students appreciating and writing poems.

Average: 3.6 (263 votes)

Poems for the future

Here are some suggestions to help get your students writing poems based around the theme of the future.

Firstly, you could begin by brainstorming topics related to the future through acrostic poems or pictures. Ask your students to imagine they're living in the year 2100. What's life like?

Average: 3.6 (91 votes)

Flashy stuff

This is the second of Fitch O'Connell's two articles for the site as Guest Writer. You can find the first article here.

Average: 4.3 (36 votes)

Gap fill poems

I like to use this activity to introduce poetry into the classroom and to raise learners' awareness of the beauty and fun to be had with poetry. It can also be used to practise learners' pronunciation.

I chose a poem titled ‘I wish my husband were online'. I chose this as it contains a number of rhyming couplets.

Average: 3.2 (513 votes)

Creative Ways

A teaching pack based on materials developed by the British Council in cooperation with the BBC World Service for those starting to teach creative writing in the English language classroom.

It was inspired by the British Council's 15th Oxford Conference on Teaching Literature Overseas, which was held in 2000.

Average: 3.4 (60 votes)
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