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Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Key Themes in the Poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir

In this worksheet, students will examine how the key themes are presented, and evaluate their effectiveness, in the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir.

'Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Key Themes 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 think about how the writer presents these key themes and evaluate their effectiveness.

 

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

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 TONE of the first stanza?
The mother is using these last moments to treat he...
"Spasms", "disrupting" and "blockade" are negative...
The poet wants the reader to know that although th...
Why does the mother pin the poppy on her son? Why ...
The reader is immediately given the impression tha...
Why does the poet specify "individual war graves"?...
Violent words are used in the poem to present the ...
How is the poet trying to present the speaker’s ...
The speaker's son is dressed in clothes which make...

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.

soldiers at war

 

Match the stanzas to the correct overview below:

Column A

Column B

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

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!

 

 

aeroplanes fighting

 

The quotations below all relate to the theme of war and violence, can you match them to the correct evaluation?

Column A

Column B

I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spas...
This quotation describes how the mother is using s...
Sellotape bandaged around my hand
This quotation describes how the mother would like...
I resisted the impulse to run my fingers through t...
This quotation describes the actions of the mother...
All my words flattened, rolled, turned into felt
This quotation creates the effect of the mother be...

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 all relate the theme of childhood innocence. Can you match the quotations to the evaluation of the effect?

Column A

Column B

I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your n...
This creates the effect of a loving relationship b...
The world overflowing like a treasure chest
This memory creates the effect of the loss of inno...
Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on t...
This simile creates the effect of childhood innoce...

A main theme of 'Poppies' 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 linked to the theme of death and loss. Can you match the theme to the evaluation of effect?

Column A

Column B

Poppies had already been placed on individual war ...
The effect of this quotation is create the impress...
Later a single dove flew from the pear tree
The effect of this quotation is make the reader th...
Skirting the church yard walls
The effect of this quotation is to create the impr...

 

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"

children playing

 

The following quotation explains the theme of childhood innocence. Underline the three words which you think create the impression of the boy having a safe, loving childhood.

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

empty swing

 

Read the following quotation from 'Poppies'. This quotation supports some of the themes that we have looked at during this activity. Which two themes would you use to evaluate this quotation?

 

"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 evaluate the effect that this quotation has on the reader?

 

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.

 

"I was brave, as I walked with you, to the front door, threw it open"

Read the following quotation from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you evaluate the effect that this quotation has on the reader?

 

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.

 

"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom, released a songbird from its cage"

  • Question 1

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 TONE of the first sta...
The reader is immediately given t...
"Spasms", "disrupting" and "block...
Violent words are used in the poe...
Why does the mother pin the poppy...
The mother is using these last mo...
Why does the poet specify "indivi...
The poet wants the reader to know...
How is the poet trying to present...
The speaker's son is dressed in c...
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.

soldiers at war

 

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: In the FIRST stanza, the mother looks back at remembrance day and the idea of the poppy, which has helped trigger the memory. In the SECOND stanza, the mother talks about helping her son get ready and seeing him off. In the THIRD stanza, the poem explores the emptiness that is left in his absence. In the FOURTH stanza, 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!

 

 

aeroplanes fighting

 

The quotations below all relate to the theme of war and violence, can you match them to the correct evaluation?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

I pinned one onto your lapel, cri...
This quotation describes the acti...
Sellotape bandaged around my hand
This quotation describes how the ...
I resisted the impulse to run my ...
This quotation describes how the ...
All my words flattened, rolled, t...
This quotation creates the effect...
EDDIE SAYS
Throughout the poem, we are given descriptions of the actions of the mother. Look closely for the double meanings though, how many of the phrases are also describing war and violence? The effect of this is to create the impression that the mother already knows her son is in danger. 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 all relate the theme of childhood innocence. Can you match the quotations to the evaluation of the effect?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

I wanted to graze my nose across ...
This creates the effect of a lovi...
The world overflowing like a trea...
This simile creates the effect of...
Hoping to hear your playground vo...
This memory creates the effect of...
EDDIE SAYS
All of these quotations create a very emotive effect on the reader, as his childhood innocence makes his loss at the end of the poem even sadder. 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' 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 linked to the theme of death and loss. Can you match the theme to the evaluation of effect?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Poppies had already been placed o...
The effect of this quotation is t...
Later a single dove flew from the...
The effect of this quotation is m...
Skirting the church yard walls
The effect of this quotation is c...
EDDIE SAYS
All of these quotations create the effect that death and loss is a major part of war. It is not only the men in battle that suffer, but the loved ones left mourning them. 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

children playing

 

The following quotation explains the theme of childhood innocence. Underline the three words which you think create the impression of the boy having a safe, loving childhood.

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
Well done if you got all three! "Graze" is a gentle action that shows the love of the mother. "Play" suggests that the mother always wanted her son to be happy. "Little" suggests that the mother saw him as someone vulnerable, to be looked after. 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

empty swing

 

Read the following quotation from 'Poppies'. This quotation supports some of the themes that we have looked at during this activity. Which two themes would you use to evaluate this quotation?

 

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

CORRECT ANSWER
Childhood
Death and loss
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "I listened, hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind" tells us two things. Firstly, that the son hasn't come back from the war, which is why his 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 evaluate the effect that this quotation has on the reader?

 

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.

 

"I was brave, as I walked with you, to the front door, threw it open"

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: Although every instinct of the mother tells her to keep her son at home, she walks confidently to the door with him and says "I was brave as I walked to the front door with you, threw it open". The verb 'threw' suggests that she uses all of her energy to create the impression that she is happy for her son. The effect of this is to show that the mother is to be admired for her bravery, just like the soldiers.

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 a 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

Read the following quotation from the poem 'Poppies'. Can you evaluate the effect that this quotation has on the reader?

 

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.

 

"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom, released a songbird from its cage"

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: After her son has left, the mother describes how she "released a songbird from its cage" which creates the impression in the reader that the mother will always do the right thing, no matter how much it costs her emotionally. The 'songbird' is symbolic of the son, they are both loved and admired by her and it pains her to let them both go. However the verb 'released' tells the reader that she is ready to set them both free.

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 a 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.

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