As an entry into analysing poetry, my students analysed jokes. As well adjusting the rhythm of learning, this had serious pedagogical ambitions.

Firstly, for students to analyse poems with any kind of intrinsic motivation, they need to be able to see language acting in different ways. They needed to see how language can meet or subvert expectations. However, those expectations require knowledge, and that knowledge needs to be learnt.

The list of jokes we used was carefully selected to contain subversions and allusions as well as the usual puns.

Favoured points of learning were:

1) Is a joke effective if you need to explain the context?

2) Is a cliche effective if it is subverted?

3) Can the allusion of a cliche be used to enhanced the meaning of a text?

4) Can rhythm in a joke enhance its effect?

5) What determines the offensive capacity of a joke (beyond, of course, vulgarity)?

As we moving into a programme of intense initial understanding of the poem (in the form of two poems per lesson using the WRITER acroynm), it is essential that we find thematic links. Our thematic order is:


Bayonet Charge/Charge of the Light Brigade



Experience of the solider: Hero or Horrified?
Flag/God America I



Patriotism and Obedience: Blinded by Passion?
Poppies/Mametz Wood


Memories of those who are dead: Sentimental or sensitive?

Belfast Confetti/The Right Word




Experience of domestic conflict: Not my problem?

At the Border/Yellow Palm



Foreign Experiences of Conflict: Otherness
Falling Leaves/Out of the Blue



Personal Experiences of Seismic Events: Sonder
Futility/Come On Come Back



Incomprehensibility of War: We are dying for what?
Hawk Roosting Experience of Power