So when Queensland teacher Tammie Gilbert tackled the subject with her Year 8 English class, she wanted students to look beyond the imagery and delve into, as she puts it, “the human condition” via some carefully selected pieces of war poetry.
“The unit wasn’t just about poetry, it was about that connection.
“I find one of the very hard things often with English, and often with poetry, is having that authentic connection.
“I mean kids know we have to study it, but it’s why we are studying it,” the educator from AB Paterson College shares.
According to Gilbert, poetry is the perfect medium for helping children better come to terms with the nuanced emotions and personal experiences of war, and how these linger on in all of us today.
“…we can take away a lot of the underlying themes and images in poetry and apply it to what we might know now.
“It’s accessible, it’s generally not long texts and students are often aware of poetic and literary devices from an early age,” she adds.
To loop the unit together, historian and musician Dr Mark Cryle tapped further into students’ emotions as he performed musical renditions of iconic poems, and ballad And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
The session really hit a high note.
“One of the great things that the students have said is he brought in (his expertise) and showed them very clearly how understandings of war had changed within a very short period of time,” Gilbert says.
“Even students who I hadn’t thought had engaged so well originally with the unit remarked that they walked away knowing and understanding and having a better connection with what they had studied.”