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Identify Key Themes in 'Winter Swans'

In this worksheet, students will test their understanding of key themes in 'Winter Swans' (part of the Love and Relationships cluster of the GCSE poetry anthology).

'Identify Key Themes in 'Winter Swans'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Love and Relationships: 'Winter Swans'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to revise some key themes in 'Winter Swans'?

 

You've come to the right place!

 

Thought bubble

 

To quickly recap: the poem is about a couple who have drifted apart, getting closer after seeing a pair of swans do a mating dance. So themes of nature, natural instinct, love and calmness are all present (and waiting to be detected) in the poem!

 

The activity set-up will be quite straightforward. You'll get a quote - just identify the theme that you think is being presented.

 

 

 

 

It'll help if you write down whatever new or important information you learn along the way! 

Tick the most prominent key theme in the poem.

 

Pain

Death

Nature

Flight

Fill in the blank in this sentence, which refers to stanza one.

 

Pick from one of these themes:

 

Relationships

Happiness

Weather

Glamour

 

Pain

Death

Nature

Flight

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of overcoming distance in the poem?

 

 

"The clouds had given their all"

"Silent and apart"

"'They mate for life' you said"

"Our hands [...] swum the distance between us"

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza seven.

Nature

Distance

Overcoming distance

Fulfilment

Love

Separation

Weather

 

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza three.

Sexuality

Nature

Separation

Distance

Unity

Pain

 

 

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

Love

Unity

Overcoming distance

Nature

Sex

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

Column A

Column B

"The clouds had given their all"
Calmness
"Porcelain over the stilling water"
Love/tenderness
"Our hands [...] swum the distance between us"
Weather
"And folded, one over the other"
Unity

Write down one theme/motif out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza four.

 

​Calmness

Love

Nature

Stability

Fear

Weather

 

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza seven.

 

​Love

Nature

Separateness

Unity

Conflict

Dominance

 

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

  • Question 1

Tick the most prominent key theme in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of nature is huge in the poem!
  • Question 2

Fill in the blank in this sentence, which refers to stanza one.

 

Pick from one of these themes:

 

Relationships

Happiness

Weather

Glamour

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The first stanza really introduces the theme of the weather having an impact on the couple's relationship (through the device of pathetic fallacy). It also introduces the couple as 'we'- which references a relationship.
  • Question 3

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of overcoming distance in the poem?

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Our hands [...] swum the distance between us"
EDDIE SAYS
The idea of overcoming distance is probably best shown in the "swum the distance" bit of the sixth stanza. Where the couple were, previously, "silent and apart", after witnessing the swans, they hold hands. Look at the way their hands 'fold' over each other. There is a real sense of protectiveness and tenderness in the image, don't you think?
  • Question 4

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza seven.

Nature

Distance

Overcoming distance

Fulfilment

Love

Separation

Weather

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
Overcoming distance
Love
Fulfilment
EDDIE SAYS
The key themes really present themselves in the final stanza of the poem (although, remember, themes develop and change throughout poems as attitudes develop and change).
  • Question 5

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza three.

Sexuality

Nature

Separation

Distance

Unity

Pain

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Unity
Nature
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza three displays themes of unity and nature (or if you're being really bold - the way nature influences unity). Think about the unity between nature and the couple, the way the swans influence the couple. What do you think this says about the way the themes are interconnected in the poem?
  • Question 6

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Sex
EDDIE SAYS
Sex is the only theme out of the options that isn't really present. Instead, the poem chooses to focus on more abstract ideas, like love, peace and stability. Think about the effect of nature on the inner mind- it seems Sheers is more focused on conveying an inner peace, rather than stressing on physical themes/ideas/motifs.
  • Question 7

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"The clouds had given their all"
Weather
"Porcelain over the stilling wate...
Calmness
"Our hands [...] swum the distanc...
Unity
"And folded, one over the other"
Love/tenderness
EDDIE SAYS
In being able to link certain quotes to certain themes, you will be able to revise both details and an overview of the poem. It also helps with analysis, where you take a wide theme and narrow it down into a small quote. Have fun with it, and be creative in your analysis and interpretation of what you think Sheers is trying to present.
  • Question 8

Write down one theme/motif out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza four.

 

​Calmness

Love

Nature

Stability

Fear

Weather

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Calmness
Nature
Stability
Weather
EDDIE SAYS
Stanza four has quite a lot going on, with its use of nature and simile, bringing in aspects of weather and calmness (the idea of the boats "righting in rough weather"). Think about how themes connect, and what kind of overarching message is being addressed when Sheers employs the use of these themes.
  • Question 9

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in stanza seven.

 

​Love

Nature

Separateness

Unity

Conflict

Dominance

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Love
Nature
Unity
EDDIE SAYS
Here, we cement the themes of love, nature and unity. There is a sense of peacefulness, present in the last stanza, which summarises the main focus points of the poem.
  • Question 10

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Love
Distance
Unity
Separation
Weather
Nature
Calmness
Stability
EDDIE SAYS
If you choose a theme that isn't on this list, that's okay, as long as you can find at least two quotes which back up this theme. If you can't, then it's probably not a theme but a one time reference you're thinking of. The key themes are the ones written above, but you can also pick: - Peacefulness - Overcoming conflict/distance - Destiny - Fulfilment Great focus!
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