Today we tackled The Horse Whisperer. The emphasis of the lesson was to take all that we had learned about studying poetry and apply to an ‘unseen’ poem. By the end of the lesson we developed confident/insightful commentary and analysis of the poem. Here is how we tackled it:

1. At the start of the lesson, we had to make inferences from a set of pictures inspired by the poem:

Horse imagery

We came up with many responses including: witchcraft, nature, secrets, fear, decay, religion, life, death… These would all help with our closer inspections.

2. After this, we were introduced to the poem by listening to a recording while reading our own anthologies . We were prompted to annotate any interesting features, as well as any evidence of the themes/ideas we had found in the starter.

3. In our newly formed groups, we were then prompted to make initial reactions about structure, word choices, reader reactions and themes/feelings in the poem. Each group had 3 minutes to make notes on a section before having to pass it onto another group. As we continued to swap sheets, our analysis became deeper. We had to read what previous groups had written and add to, or develop, their ideas – this included added quotations, explaining effects on readers and making assumptions about the author’s context.

Our findings were detailed and thoughtful, considering we only had 12 minutes to complete this – with virtually no help from Ms Ryan. A visitor to the class was impressed by our ability to develop confident interpretations independently. Here are the notes we produced:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4. Each group then had 3 minutes to answer the question: “What is the Horse Whisperer about?” We shared our interpretations which were varied at this point, proving how there is no one true answer when it comes to interpreting poetry.

5. In the last 20 minutes of the lesson, we continued with the theme of independent study by searching for linguistic and structural techniques in the poem. Many students also used this time to update their annotations of the poem. Here are ten top findings from the lesson:


Next lesson we will dig deeper into the poem and begin to compare thematic and linguistic/structural links to other poems in the anthology.