Beautiful People

January 5, 2012 § 12 Comments

“Where there is no struggle,
there is no progress.”
Frederick Douglass,
former slave, and social reformer

It’s funny to hear of old men from thousands of years ago, Ancient Greece or wherever, in uproar at the state of the youth of their time. Their quotes are as fresh today as they were then. I must admit though, I did chortle when some wrong answers were read out on the radio recently that 18-year-old students had written in their exam papers.

One was from the poem “Daffodils”, where the poet, William Wordsworth rejoices at the daffodils dancing in the breeze. The first line is particularly well-known in Britain, and what caused such outrage was a student’s answer to this gapfill:

“I wandered lonely as a ….”

Do you know what it is? Who or what could be lonely? More importantly, what does Wordsworth imagine as being lonely? It’s a good collocation activity.

“Sheep”, wrote one ignoramus.

Oh, woe! What is the world coming to?

Actually, it’s “a cloud, that floated on high o’er hill and dale”. A fluffy little white cloud, all alone in the deep summer sky, minding its own business. I can picture it now.

Cristina, who wonders, is looking for teachers to read to her little bunnies on Friday afternoons via Skype. Willy’s done one. I’ve signed up, they’d love you to, too, I’m sure.

I found the poem she tweeted a few months back, one of her favourites, very moving. I’ve made it a gapfill. Can you come up with suggestions for the gaps? (Hint: there are no sheep).

The answers are hidden in the language plant, but they’re given underneath in case you’re struggling. If you do struggle, well, you’re obviously progressing 😉

Could this activity be something you’d use in class? Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

“The most beautiful …… we have known
are those who have known defeat,
known ………, known struggle, known ….,
and have ….. their way out of the …….

These persons have an …………,
a sensitivity, and an …………. of life
that ….. them with compassion, ……….,
and a deep …… concern.
Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elizabeth Kubler Ross

people, suffering, loss, found, depths,
appreciation, understanding, fills, gentleness, loving.


§ 12 Responses to Beautiful People

  • A really lovely activity that brings more to a really profound poem.

  • PS You’ll be familiar with the work of Mr. Jimmy Cliff?

  • Hi David!

    What great activity! I would love to use more poetry in my classes, but I worry that most of my students are not really “into it”. Perhaps I just need to find the write poem.

    “Sheep”?!!! That made me laugh. Although, clouds and sheep do look alike… !


    • David Warr says:

      Hi Jem!

      Sheep, yes, funny! And yes, they do look alike. I can’t talk though, in a French translation once, I said the theives had stolen ear muffs from the jewellers, not earrings.

      I like poetic prose, somewhere in-between poems and prose, the language is memorable, and often has parallelism, where a grammar structure is repeated, which has a nice melodic effect as well as giving learners practice in grammar. Quotes are good to use. Poems, I think we agree, can get a bit heavy.

      Thanks for commenting. Greatly appreciated 🙂


  • Maria K. says:

    Great activity, although I suppose I should get my students “in the mood” for poetry first-you know how teenagers “behave” around only at the mention of the word poetry- otherwise the possibilities are endless and I imagine meaningful discussions in advanced classes.
    Thank you for sharing it!

    • David Warr says:

      Hi Maria, thanks for the comments. I agree with everything you say! I came up with lots of other words that fitted in while I was making the activity, so great for discussion as you say. But yes, the mere mention of the word “poetry” can send some to sleep, me included. As I said in another reply, I like poetic prose, which I think this is. It’s got nice poetic features that can help with learning, but isn’t so deep and impenetrable that it isolates students. How would you get them in the mood?

      • Torn Halves says:

        Why not be devious? Say you are going to begin with some lyrics. Begin with something familiar, like Katy Perry’s “Firework”. No music. Let’s read out the words. Say them aloud. Look, they have a rhythm, even without someone banging the drums in the background. But now let’s think about the words. Are they very good? “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,” is that a great line? Could Katy have done better? If they agree, they will have a thirst for more intelligent lyrics. And what’s another word for intelligent lyrics? Poems.

  • Can’t wait to use this in my class. My students like poetry and I am sure they will love this! Good work, thank you for sharing.

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