What the resource is:
Poetry Archive is a web site which showcases poems and poets from the early nineteenth century until present. It is possible to search for poems by title, theme or poetic form, and poets by last name. For all categories, an alphabetical search tool is provided which is clear and easy to use. There is a bright and engaging section for children with cartoons and bigger pictures and brighter colours to accompany the poems. It is also possible to search for ‘Short Poems', ‘Poems introduced by the Poet', and if you click on ‘Poets' you can then search by region or country. It also has an excellent ‘Links' section, which takes the user to other web resources such as ‘Poetry Society' and ‘Poetry Library'. It presents audio recordings of poets reading their own work; in order to play the recordings, ‘REAL player' is needed and the site offers a free download link for users who don't already have it. It takes a while to download REAL player, but it is possible to continue accessing the site while this is happening. The site also offers opportunities to buy books and audio visual resources.
The aims of the resource:
The site aims to engage even the most cynical reader with the wonder of poetry and it succeeds. It enthuses and excites by allowing the user to listen to poems read by the poet, with the poem printed for us to follow. The site aims to put poetry into a context. Poems are situated within a personal biography, with some poems having a commentary by the poet offered. There is also information about the social and historical period during which the poems were written. This allows the reader to consider the poet's intentions in writing and on hearing the poems, read by the poets, it is possible to understand nuances in tone and emotion which one might miss from reading from the page.
Key findings or focus:
The key focus appears to be the spoken nature of poetry, and the idea that it derives from a specific person out of their experience of life. The biographies help us to understand the poets, and often we are able to hear the poets explain the context and inspiration of specific poems, bringing them to life. The site caters for those studying for GCSE/A level study who need to analyse what they read, as it is possible to search for poetry in terms of form (e.g. Anapaestic, Nonsense), and a detailed glossary of poetic terms is provided with the aural pronunciation recorded. It also has much for those who want to read and enjoy poetry for more personal reasons; to make them laugh (Spike Milligan's ‘On the Ning, Nang, Nong') or to find poems which resonate with their own experiences (Simon Armitage - ‘The Shout'). In terms of diversity and cultural awareness, although the poets represented are largely from the UK and mainly white, the Archive is in the middle of a major project to add 100 American voices to the site, including reference to many of the major black and Asian poets. There is a good mix of poetry by men and women. For those of you who have always wondered how to read Chaucer's work aloud, the site will disappoint you as all of the poetry is more recent, although there are some sparkling examples of Standard English read in Received Pronunciation (e.g. Louis MacNeice).
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The site is authoritative and well researched in terms of what it presents. Even without the complete web address, it is possible to Google ‘Poetry Archive' and it comes up. It would be invaluable for anyone who teaches English, but there is also potential for cross-curricular linking into such areas as History, PSHE, Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning, Art and Citizenship. For those young people who are Gifted and Talented or in need of extension work and independent study, this site is safe, easy to navigate and varied. It would also be helpful in meeting the Every Child Matters aim to ‘Enjoy and Achieve' as the recordings do make poetry much more accessible for a larger range of pupil ability. Seamus Heaney is the president and Melvyn Bragg is a patron; worthy supporters of a worthy site.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
This site is an excellent way of combining ICT and poetry. It brings together all strands of the English National Curriculum (speaking and listening, reading and writing) and is accessible for teaching to a variety of different learning styles and abilities. The activities are structured and supportive for those unfamiliar with teaching poetry and the accessibility and variety on the site means that it could support a range of subject areas as well as English. It would make an effective introduction to the teaching of poetry and also offers opportunities for considering personalised learning, and work for the very able.
The relevance to ITE students:
This site is a great resource for planning the teaching of poetry. A number of poets are featured on GCSE syllabi (e.g. Gillian Clarke and Robert Browning) and there are poems for all ages, interests and abilities. As well as the detailed biographies, there are bite size quotations from the poems and poets which are more accessible, and it is possible to follow most of the poems visually while the poet reads the poem, catering for pupils with different learning styles. From an English Language point of view, there is a variety of accents to discuss and compare and it is also possible to take a historical view of received pronunciation which links into some AS and A level courses. The glossary of poetic terms is really helpful for GCSE and A level students (and above!).
There are lesson plans as well as quick activities which could be used as a start up for a lesson or integrated into subjects other than English. The ideas are vibrant and could be transferred into other subject areas.
From a cross curricular perspective, poems on the site could be used to explore human experience and emotions (PSHE, Citizenship and Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) and links into the other art forms are also possible.