The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Explore How Themes Develop in 'Winter Swans'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate how key themes develop in 'Winter Swans' develop. Students will also look at how consistent key themes are in the poem, how they change and why.

'Explore How Themes Develop 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 how key themes develop in 'Winter Swans'?

 

Thought bubble

 

This activity will help you understand how Sheers' language choice and tone develop key themes in the poem. In other words, what is the effect of these key themes on the reader? What exactly is Sheers trying to tell the reader about these key themes? First, let's identify the main themes in the poem:

 

Nature

Love

Distance/Overcoming Distance

Separation/Overcoming Separation

Unity

Weather

Calmness

Peace

 

This activity is designed so that you not only identify these key themes and ideas in the poem according to the language Sheers uses, but explore how these themes develop in the poem. So how does Sheers develop one of these themes in his poem?

 

 

Here's an example of an evaluation on the theme of the weather in the poem:

 

Sheers uses the theme of the weather to illustrate the changing nature of the main couple's relationship. When the couple are distant, the weather is gloomy and dull, implied by the "two days of rain" and reference to "the clouds". However, after witnessing the swans, which inspires the couple to overcome their distance, the weather changes to 'afternoon light', implying brightness. There is also a simile, in stanza four, which refers to the swans as "boats" which right "in rough weather". This rough weather could symbolise rough times and the boats "righting" could symbolise the couple's relationship fixing itself, despite external threat.

 

If you want to make this activity more of a revision exercise, then jot these themes down. If you want to use this activity to test yourself, then go ahead and try to memorise these key themes/motifs. 

 

It's up to you how you want to use this activity!

 

 

Remember, it's not a race. So take your time with each step! You'll make great progress.

Let's begin with the theme/motif of unity.

 

 

How does Sheers present the idea of unity in the two first lines of the third stanza? Think specifically about the influence of the swans on the couple's relationship. 

 

Pick the answer which you think is the most detailed.

 

The swans being in 'unison' makes the couple jealous

The swans being in 'unison' make the couple reconnect with each other and symbolises the unity between nature and human beings

The swans being in 'unison' suggests to the couple that what they're missing and how lacking they are

 

Looking at love, pick two quotes which explore this theme.

 

"They halved themselves..."

"The clouds had given their all"

"'They mate for life'..."

"Our hands [...] folded, one over the other..."

Let's look at the change from distance/separation to unity in the poem.

 

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either "distance" or "unity".

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from. Does the poem undergo a shift in themes/ideas?

Looking at the theme/motif of peacefulness.

 

What quotes best show the theme of peace? There are two right answers.

"Icebergs of white feather"

"Porcelain over the stilling water"

"Like a pair of wings settling..."

"'The mate for life'..."

Looking at the theme/motif of nature/nature's influence.

 

How does Sheers present this theme? 

 

Tick the most detailed answer.

 

Sheers presents the theme of nature through the swans, who influence the couple to love each other

Sheers presents the theme of nature through the boats, which are righting in rough weather

Sheers presents the theme of nature through the swans, who mate in "unity" and "for life", which influences the couple, unconsciously, to reconcile

Sheers presents the theme of nature through the clouds, which "had given their all", as they influence the couple into going out for a walk

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"the waterlogged earth

gulping for breath..."

 

Write down one theme which you think this quote expresses.

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of the weather?

 

 

"Like a pair of winds settling..."

"'They mate for life'..."

"They halved themselves..."

"The waterlogged earth"

"... We moved on through the afternoon light"

Let's link how love and nature are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 LoveNature
"Until the swans came and stopped us"
"Our hands [...] like a pair of wings settling..."
"'They mate for life'..."
"Gulping for breath at our feet"

Looking at the theme/motif of peace.

 

Pick the answer that you think best shows how Sheers develops this theme in the poem. There are two correct answers.

Sheers presents the theme of peace as something which develops over time in the poem

Sheers presents the theme of peace as something which happens after the couple witness the swans mating

Sheers uses the theme of peace as a metaphor for "boats stilling"

Sheers presents the theme of peace at the beginning of the poem

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

Which theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

Nature

The weather

Distance

  • Question 1

Let's begin with the theme/motif of unity.

 

 

How does Sheers present the idea of unity in the two first lines of the third stanza? Think specifically about the influence of the swans on the couple's relationship. 

 

Pick the answer which you think is the most detailed.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The swans being in 'unison' make the couple reconnect with each other and symbolises the unity between nature and human beings
EDDIE SAYS
The swans provide an illustration, to the couple, of unity and togetherness. However, the theme of unity is also present in the overarching idea of the unity between nature and human beings. The poem illustrate how connected we are/should be to nature and how united our emotions are with the natural world.
  • Question 2

 

Looking at love, pick two quotes which explore this theme.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"'They mate for life'..."
"Our hands [...] folded, one over the other..."
EDDIE SAYS
Think about the way the order of these two quotes work. The first one, "they mate for life..." is the speaker's lover talking to the speaker about the swans - illustrating the love the swans have for each other, the commitment implied by the language use, "for life". Now, the second quote is the way the couple behave with each other, through the action of holding hands. Think about the way the swans have influenced the couple. Think about the imagery of the swans within the action of holding hands.
  • Question 3

Let's look at the change from distance/separation to unity in the poem.

 

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either "distance" or "unity".

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from. Does the poem undergo a shift in themes/ideas?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
As mentioned before (you're probably sick of it by now) the theme of distance, quite clearly, evolves into the theme of unity and overcoming distance. The catalyst for this change? You guessed it: the influence of the swans!
  • Question 4

Looking at the theme/motif of peacefulness.

 

What quotes best show the theme of peace? There are two right answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Porcelain over the stilling water"
"Like a pair of wings settling..."
EDDIE SAYS
In picking out the presence of certain themes, we have to make sure we can infer that - we need to read between the lines. Look at the language used and the tone established. So, how do the verbs "settling" and "stilling" convey peace? Well, the connotations of the two words convey slowing down/stopping. We can infer a self-reflecting element to the two verbs. Also, look at the sibilance of the words, which bring to mind a whisper, or a quiet/hushed sound.
  • Question 5

Looking at the theme/motif of nature/nature's influence.

 

How does Sheers present this theme? 

 

Tick the most detailed answer.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Sheers presents the theme of nature through the swans, who mate in "unity" and "for life", which influences the couple, unconsciously, to reconcile
EDDIE SAYS
There's a lot of reference to nature throughout the poem, but the powerful effect and influence of nature is definitely presented through the swans. Maybe pick out some quotes which you think really show this influence on the couple and jot them down? Let's begin with a template: The quote "they mate for life" really emphasises the lifelong commitment that the swans have to each other. Furthermore, the fact that this is the only piece of dialogue in the poem, said by the speaker's lover, suggests that the fact that the swans mate for life is important enough to be stated out loud! Note how, in stanza two, the speaker notices that him and his lover are "silent". The fact that the swans "mate for life" is important enough to break this silence.
  • Question 6

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"the waterlogged earth

gulping for breath..."

 

Write down one theme which you think this quote expresses.

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
EDDIE SAYS
The easiest theme to spot here is nature. Nature, and the way that it seems to reflect/influence the couple's relationship, illustrating a desperation for unity or nourishment, is stressed here.
  • Question 7

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of the weather?

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"... We moved on through the afternoon light"
EDDIE SAYS
Out of all these quotes, the one which reflects the weather, and its importance to the poem as a whole, is the way the afternoon light seems to shine on the couple after they witness the swans mating.
  • Question 8

Let's link how love and nature are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

CORRECT ANSWER
 LoveNature
"Until the swans came and stopped us"
"Our hands [...] like a pair of wings settling..."
"'They mate for life'..."
"Gulping for breath at our feet"
EDDIE SAYS
Hopefully, the point made here is that love and nature in the poem are heavily connected and entwined - no show of love is present without the theme of nature.
  • Question 9

Looking at the theme/motif of peace.

 

Pick the answer that you think best shows how Sheers develops this theme in the poem. There are two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
Sheers presents the theme of peace as something which develops over time in the poem
Sheers presents the theme of peace as something which happens after the couple witness the swans mating
EDDIE SAYS
Peace, in the poem, is something which develops, after the couple have witnessed the swans mate. It isn't a theme which is present at the beginning of the poem. Much like calmness, love and unity, it is a theme which shows itself, gradually, after a change occurs.
  • Question 10

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

Which theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of nature is most prevalent (obvious) in the poem. Why? Because it is the most present one - from the beginning to the end. It is always there, in the background, reflecting and influencing the couple's reconciliation.
---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.