Year 2 – Developing reading comprehension through poetry

Learning objective for the lesson

  • To express personal views about a poem through discussion and dialogue.
  • To understand the meaning of new vocabulary.
  • To be able to understand and discuss a poet’s choice of words and phrases. 

Lesson opener

Choose a number of short poems to share with children as a whole class. Visual clips accessed from websites such as and can also be used to add variety and allow children to experience poems read by others. Ask the children how the poem makes them feel.

Encourage children to articulate their feelings using questions such as:

                        Which part made you feel sad/happy/confused/surprised?

                        Why do you feel … ?

                        How did you decide?

                        Tell me more about …

Use talk partners to ensure that all children are engaged in paired talk and have the opportunity to express their views, using adult support where necessary to elicit responses and explore answers in further detail.

Main lesson


It is important that every child has the opportunity to talk about the poem with a teacher or a classmate during the course of this lesson.

Ask the children to listen to the poem read by you or pre-recorded in order to gain a ‘feel’ for the poem. Both ‘The Moon’ by Robert Louis Stevenson and ‘What is Pink?’ by Christina Rossetti work well for this activity, but you may have alternative classic poems that you prefer to share with your class. Allow the children to listen to the poem for a second time and ask them to return to their tables and draw the images that come into their minds. Circulate during this activity, asking individual children for further clarification as to why they have included certain images.

Gather the children back to the carpet as a group and play or read the poem again. On this occasion read one line at a time and, using a variety of objects to represent each line, ask children to choose relevant objects to illustrate each line of the poem. For example, the following lines of the poem:

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall; She shines on thieves on the garden wall, On streets and fields and harbour quays, And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees. The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse, The howling dog by the door of the house,

could be represented by a clock, a bag of gold coins, a number of toy boats, a small branch, a toy cat and a toy dog. Continue doing this for each line until you have a visual representation of the entire poem. This can be laid out on the floor or displayed on a table. The children will now have a visual reminder of the whole poem to which they can refer.

This lesson is focused upon opening up a dialogue for discussion and introducing children to new vocabulary, so it is important that words and phrases within the poem are explored. Provide a copy of the poem and five 10 pence coins between four children and explain that they have to choose five words and phrases that they particularly like or would like to explore further. However, each one of these words or phrases will cost them 10 pence, so they have to purchase wisely and there has to be a consensus of opinion.

Allow time for them to read the poem together, ensuring that those children who may not be able to decode the words in the poem have adult support or are able to listen a gain to the poem on a recording device. These words and phrases can be highlighted or remembered in order to share with others during the course of the lesson.

Prompt individuals with questions such as:

                        What did you like about this phrase?

                        How did it make you feel?

                        Tell me what you think this word means?

                        Where have you heard this word before?

                        Why do you think the poet uses this word and not this word?

                        Would you change any words? Why?

                        Is there a word that you would like to know more about?

                        Are there any words and phrases that you find difficult to understand? 


Employ hot seating during the plenary as a means to assess individual understanding. In pairs, one child becomes the interviewer, the other acts in role as the poet. The interviewer asks the poet why he or she chose to write a particular phrase and the other child has to answer in role, as though being interviewed for a TV programme or for a magazine article.
These exchanges could be recorded so that answers may be analysed or used for assessment purposes. Refer to the learning objectives for this particular lesson and listen carefully to children’s responses in order to inform next steps. 

Assessment (measuring achievement)

Assessment for learning

The children need to be familiar with listening to poems and have experience of talking about them in small groups. Some children may find it difficult to articulate their views about a text; therefore, you may need to consider appropriate groupings.

During the main body of the lesson, use answers to your key questions to inform your assessment for learning and provide an appropriate level of challenge based on their comments. Remember that challenge is appropriate for all children regardless of ability and if they do not have to think carefully before justifying an opinion, it may be because they are not receiving adequate challenge within the lesson.

Assessment at the point of learning

Use sticky notes to record children’s responses to some of your questions. Do they have an understanding of the meanings of various words and phrases? Can they use them in a different context? Why do they think the poet chose particular words? How does it improve the overall mood of the poem? If children are answering these questions, they are demonstrating good levels of comprehension by interpreting the poems and identifying the writer’s viewpoint.

Assessment of learning

Make summative assessments of children following this lesson. The information that you have both written and recorded can be used to support your judgement and provide evidence to demonstrate reading comprehension skills. You do not want to hoard unmanageable quantities of transcripts or endless sticky notes, therefore you will need to make a judgement based upon the criteria outlined in your school’s assessment policy. Some evidence may be useful in supporting this.

Remember that this lesson comprises one lesson within a series of lessons which may all contribute to forming an overall picture of where an individual child may lie in terms of assessment. Be alert to incidental evidence that may be demonstrated across the curriculum which supports children’s ability to comment upon writers’ viewpoints. 


The meaning constructed from poems is dependent upon prior knowledge. This may explain why sometimes, children’s responses to a text may seem irrelevant or unrelated. Questioning children’s responses at this stage is one way in which you can gain an understanding of why a child may perceive the text in a particular way and will allow you to explore misconceptions. In the poem used for the lesson outlined above, if children are not familiar with harbours and quays, they are unlikely to be able to make sense of the significance of the line within the poem. This has implications for exploring prior knowledge. In a similar way, if a child is unfamiliar with a bat’s sleeping habits, the idea that it resides in a bed may be taken literally! How do you find out what knowledge children have? 

For more lesson inspiration and for the theory behind how to develop good lessons, see the Lessons in Teaching Series.