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Explore How the Key Themes Develop in the Poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir

In this worksheet, students will undertake an exploration of how the key themes develop in the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir.

'Explore How the Key Themes Develop in the Poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'Poppies', Conflict: 'Poppies'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir, which can be found in the Power and Conflict section of your anthology.

 

Although 'Poppies' is set in the present day, the themes and ideas in the poem can be linked right back to the beginning of the Poppy Day tradition. Armistice Sunday began in 1919 as a way of marking the end of the First World War in 1918. It was set up as a way of remembering the many men who lost their lives in the war. Even today the event is used to remember those men and any who have died since then.

 

poppy

 

The main themes running throughout the poem are grief, war, loss, memory, childhood, innocence and adulthood.

In the following questions, you will be asked to explore how these key themes develop throughout the poem.

 

You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples. These quotations are for reference only.

cemetery with poppies

 

In order to explore the themes in the poem 'Poppies', we need to understand the meaning of them. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

Column A

Column B

What is the significance of the poems title?
The mother does not want her son to see that she i...
In the second stanza, the speaker 'steeled the sof...
'Poppies' symbolises the themes of war and remembr...
What does the dove symbolise at the end of the poe...
Caring, loving, protective
What is the effect of the last line on the reader?
It makes the reader feel sad that the mother seems...
What impression does the poet give you of the moth...
Peace, death and freedom

The four stanzas of the poem describe a son leaving home to join the army and the mother's reaction. She feels sad, lonely and scared for his safety. She describes helping him smarten his uniform ready to leave. After he leaves, she goes to places that remind her of him, desperately trying to find any trace of him.

 

modern day soldiers

 

Match the stanzas to the correct overview below:

Column A

Column B

Stanza one
Mother wants to be strong but goes to his room and...
Stanza two
Emotional response to her son’s death
Stanza three
Poppies/Saying goodbye to her son
Stanza four
Looking after her son and memories

A main theme running throughout the poem is war and violence, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

 

soldier with gun

 

The quotations below all relate to the theme of war and violence, can you decide which quotations relate to this theme and which do not?

 Quotations associated with war and violenceQuotations NOT associated with war and violence
"Poppies had already been placed on individual war graves"
"Disrupting a blockade"
"I rounded up as many white cat hairs as I could"
"A split second and you were away"
"Three days before Armistice Sunday"

A main theme running throughout 'Poppies' is childhood innocence, which works well as a contrast to the very violent theme in the last question.

 

children playing

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you decide which of them are associated with the theme of childhood innocence, and which are not?

 Quotations associated with childhood innocenceQuotations NOT associated with childhood innocence
"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose"
"Skirting the church yard walls"
"Play at being Eskimos"
"The inscriptions on the war memorial"
"I went into your bedroom"
"Released a song bird from its cage"
"The world overflowing like a treasure chest"
"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"

A main theme of 'Poppies' is death and loss, which is made even more emotive by the loving images of childhood in the last question.

 

love heart on tree

 

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you decide which are associated with death and loss and which are not?

 Quotations associated with Death and LossQuotations NOT associated with Death and Loss
"Poppies had already been placed on individual war graves"
"Later a single dove flew from the pear tree"
"All my words flattened rolled turned into felt"
"Skirting the church yard walls"
"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose"
"Inscriptions on the war memorial"

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Poppies'. Which would you choose to explore the theme of war and violence?

"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose, play at being Eskimos"

"I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red"

"A split second and you were away"

"...without a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf"

child splashing in puddle

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'Poppies'. Which would you choose to explore the theme of childhood innocence?

"Three days before Armistice Sunday"

"I rounded up as many white cat hairs as I could"

"A split second and you were away, intoxicated"

"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose, play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little"

poppies

 

Read the following quotation from 'Poppies'. This quotation supports some of the themes that we have looked at during this activity. Can you choose two themes from the list below?

 

"I listened, hoping to hear
your playground voice catching on the wind"

Childhood

War

Death and loss

Violence

aeroplanes at war

Read the following quotation from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you explain what this quotation tells us about how the mother is feeling?

 

For this question, you will have to write your own answer using the PEE format - Make a POINT, give an EXAMPLE, EXPLAIN with deeper detail.

 

"All my words flattened, rolled, turned into felt"

war memorial

 

The main tone used throughout the poem 'Poppies' is sad and mournful. Choose three quotations from the list below, which you think helps to create this tone.

"A split second and you were away"

"Steeled the softening of my face"

"I was brave as I walked with you"

"Leaned against it like a wishbone"

"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"

  • Question 1

cemetery with poppies

 

In order to explore the themes in the poem 'Poppies', we need to understand the meaning of them. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

What is the significance of the p...
'Poppies' symbolises the themes o...
In the second stanza, the speaker...
The mother does not want her son ...
What does the dove symbolise at t...
Peace, death and freedom
What is the effect of the last li...
It makes the reader feel sad that...
What impression does the poet giv...
Caring, loving, protective
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is about the nature of grief. The mother is speaking directly to her son, but a son who shifts in time. There is: The son leaving home for school on his own for the first time. The son who has just been killed. Beneath the surface the son dying violently in a field hospital in Afghanistan.
  • Question 2

The four stanzas of the poem describe a son leaving home to join the army and the mother's reaction. She feels sad, lonely and scared for his safety. She describes helping him smarten his uniform ready to leave. After he leaves, she goes to places that remind her of him, desperately trying to find any trace of him.

 

modern day soldiers

 

Match the stanzas to the correct overview below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Stanza one
Poppies/Saying goodbye to her son
Stanza two
Looking after her son and memorie...
Stanza three
Mother wants to be strong but goe...
Stanza four
Emotional response to her son’s...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? The poem is written as a monologue in four stanzas with no rhyme scheme. The stanzas are structured based on events in the life of mother and child: First - the mother looks back at remembrance day and the idea of the poppy, which has helped trigger the memory. Second - the mother talks about helping her son get ready and seeing him off. Third - the poem explores the emptiness that is left in his absence. Fourth - finally, the mother feels drawn to a war memorial bringing the story back to where it started, yet now with no son around. The suggestion of the dove being that he has died. The poem uses a lot of enjambment and familiar nouns to enhance the idea of natural tone and the mother's voice.
  • Question 3

A main theme running throughout the poem is war and violence, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

 

soldier with gun

 

The quotations below all relate to the theme of war and violence, can you decide which quotations relate to this theme and which do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with war and violenceQuotations NOT associated with war and violence
"Poppies had already been placed on individual war graves"
"Disrupting a blockade"
"I rounded up as many white cat hairs as I could"
"A split second and you were away"
"Three days before Armistice Sunday"
EDDIE SAYS
Even though the poem is told from the perspective of someone who has never been to war, the poem is full of images of violence and uses military language. The point the poet is trying to make is that war has an effect on everyone, even the families left at home. The mother cannot help but think of all the violence that awaits her son.
  • Question 4

A main theme running throughout 'Poppies' is childhood innocence, which works well as a contrast to the very violent theme in the last question.

 

children playing

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you decide which of them are associated with the theme of childhood innocence, and which are not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with childhood innocenceQuotations NOT associated with childhood innocence
"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose"
"Skirting the church yard walls"
"Play at being Eskimos"
"The inscriptions on the war memorial"
"I went into your bedroom"
"Released a song bird from its cage"
"The world overflowing like a treasure chest"
"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"
EDDIE SAYS
A major focus of the poem is the mother's memories of her son as a child. She feels that she has two reasons to be sad, as not only is her son growing up and leaving home, but he is also leaving to risk his life at war. As she prepares to send him to war, she thinks back to a time when he was a child and she was able to keep him safe at home. Her memories of "playing Eskimo" show that he had a happy and peaceful childhood, which she misses.
  • Question 5

A main theme of 'Poppies' is death and loss, which is made even more emotive by the loving images of childhood in the last question.

 

love heart on tree

 

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you decide which are associated with death and loss and which are not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with Death and LossQuotations NOT associated with Death and Loss
"Poppies had already been placed on individual war graves"
"Later a single dove flew from the pear tree"
"All my words flattened rolled turned into felt"
"Skirting the church yard walls"
"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose"
"Inscriptions on the war memorial"
EDDIE SAYS
Jane Weir is quoted as saying that 'As the mother of two teenage boys, I tried to put across how I might feel if they were fighting in a war zone'. This could be why we feel such a sense of sadness for the mother at the end of the poem when we realise that her much loved son has not returned from war. Her sense of loss is so great that she cannot overcome the grief she feels.
  • Question 6

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Poppies'. Which would you choose to explore the theme of war and violence?

CORRECT ANSWER
"I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red" contains a list of verbs which are all associated with the violence of war. Words such as "pinned", "crimped" and "spasms" suggest that, whilst the mother is making her son look smart, she cannot help but think of the danger that awaits him.
  • Question 7

child splashing in puddle

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'Poppies'. Which would you choose to explore the theme of childhood innocence?

CORRECT ANSWER
"I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose, play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose, play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little" shows how the boy has had a loving childhood, where he was kept safe and loved by his mother. We are given the impression that the mother wishes that she could turn back the time to when her son was innocent and carefree.
  • Question 8

poppies

 

Read the following quotation from 'Poppies'. This quotation supports some of the themes that we have looked at during this activity. Can you choose two themes from the list below?

 

"I listened, hoping to hear
your playground voice catching on the wind"

CORRECT ANSWER
Childhood
Death and loss
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you got both themes! The quotation above tells us two things. Firstly, that the son hasn't come back from the war, which is why the mother can only wish to hear his voice. Secondly, that she misses her son's childhood and wished she could go back to a time before the war.
  • Question 9

aeroplanes at war

Read the following quotation from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you explain what this quotation tells us about how the mother is feeling?

 

For this question, you will have to write your own answer using the PEE format - Make a POINT, give an EXAMPLE, EXPLAIN with deeper detail.

 

"All my words flattened, rolled, turned into felt"

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: The mother feels as though she has many things she would like to say to her son, but is unable to say the words as they are "flattened, rolled, turned into felt". The list of verbs used here creates the impression that the words are formed in her mind, but disappear before she has a chance to say them. This suggests that the mother is 'flattening' these words, as she does not want to upset her son.

Although the whole of this question is marked out of 30, for this answer the student will only be making one point (AQA recommends that the student makes 3 comparison points throughout the essay) so we will mark this answer out of 6.
In order to gain full marks on this question the student should have written an extended paragraph that follows the PEE structure.
You should find a point, an example and an explanation.
The paragraph should include a quotation, language technique and some evaluation.

  • Question 10

war memorial

 

The main tone used throughout the poem 'Poppies' is sad and mournful. Choose three quotations from the list below, which you think helps to create this tone.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Steeled the softening of my face"
"Leaned against it like a wishbone"
"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"
EDDIE SAYS
These quotations all create a sad and mournful tone and link to the main theme of loss. They tell the reader of how the mother is sad that her son is leaving and also how she is devastated by grief when he does not return. We are given the impression by the end of the poem that the mother is so overcome with grief that she does not even remember to take her coat out with her on a cold day. Well done, that's another activity completed!
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