What I Taught Today: ‘Exposure’ by Wilfred Owen

This lesson was to introduce my low ability Year 10 set to Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Exposure’. It’s the second poem from the ‘Power and Conflict’ cluster which we have studied – we started last week with ‘Bayonet Charge’, so this time I thought I’d stick with World War One.

To warm the class up I started the lesson with a brief review of ‘Bayonet Charge’: what happens in the poem, what experience did the poet have of war, how did the soldier in the poem feel? Then I showed the following image of WW1 soldiers, and asked the class two questions: what can you see, and how would it feel to be in the photograph?

ww1 soldiers cold

These questions gave two lists of words/phrases which I wrote on the board, and which pupils copied into their books. We talked about how we might feel being in the position of the soldiers, and our own experiences of being in the cold.

I then gave pupils a copy of the following letter, written by Wilfred Owen in 1917 to his family, and describing the freezing conditions. I read the letter to the class. Whilst I was reading it, they annotated the unfamiliar/slang words (all underlined), and we discussed how hard it must have been for Owen and his men.

Wilfred Owen letter re cold

Pupils then opened their anthologies to ‘Exposure’. I told the class that I would read the poem to them. Whilst I was reading it, they were to underline/annotate any poetic techniques they recognised, plus any words that were unfamiliar to them.

After reading the poem, we talked about what they had found, and why Owen used particular techniques (sibilance, alliteration, repetition). That took us to the end of the lesson. When I see them again tomorrow, we’ll start annotating the poem in more detail. I’ll do the first half on the board, then the class will do the last four stanzas independently. If time allows, they will be writing their own letter from the front, describing the freezing weather conditions and using language from both the poem and Owen’s letter. I may get them to do this in pairs, depending on time available/how independently they are working.

Happy teaching!

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