Fragmented Poem: Hitcher

Today my year 11s were studying the brilliant Armitage poem, ‘Hitcher’. As a starter, before reading the poem, they were asked to write a story. Their story began with a man ill in bed with the aswerphone blaring out the message, ‘Come into work today or you’re fired!’ From there on they had to write a story that included the following things: Vauxhall Astra, Leeds, toothbrush, twelve noon, hitchiker, krooklok and weather: moderate to fair. We ended up with some pretty interesting creations – including one with quite a fixation on the toothbrush and its ability to start the car etc.

 Following this activity, pairs/threes were given a post-it note with a fragment of the poem. For example:

  • but the ansaphone kept screaming
  • One more sick-note, mister, and you’re finished. Fired.
  • I picked him up in Leeds.
  • I let him have it
  • – and didn’t even swerve.
  • bouncing off the kerb, then disappearing down the verge.
  • Stich that, I remember thinking, you can walk from there

I modelled how to deal with these fragments and spoke about how I went about analysing poems by asking questions e.g. Why has the poet used this word? What’s the effect? They were asked to think of 2-3 questions they could ask about the fragment before attempting to answer them. After they had completed this task we discussed how they found analysing such a short piece of writing and the response was largely positive – a few of them mentioned that it showed them that in fact there was a lot you could say about a very little. Perhaps more importantly, it showed them that they themselves were more than capable of analysing poetry without being taught what is considered to be the ‘right’ interpretation.

Following this we read through the poem and then analysed it as a group. When we reached a particular fragment; those students responsible for it led the discussion. I was really impressed with the insightful comments students were making and the process seemed to build their confidence in talking about the language of the poem.

 On a slightly different note, when we were discussing the layout of the poem and the arrow like shape of each stanza one student suggested that it looked similar to a hitcher sticking out his hand. What an original interpretation! Sometimes students really can blow you away with things that you haven’t seen yourself.

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One Response

  1. I have just been searching of ideas to use when teaching this poem on Monday – and this is perfect!!
    I’m going to steal all your ideas because they are totally fab!
    I think my year 11s are going to love this!x

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