This lesson plan makes use of an illustrated text – an animated poem by former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, titled Forgetfulness. The animation was created by Julian Grey from Headgear Animation. Click here for more animated poems by Billy Collins.
- Language level: Intermediate; Upper intermediate (B1; B2)
- Learner type: Adults
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activity: Speaking; Reading
- Topic: School; Memory
- Language: The suffixes -ful, -less & -ness
- Materials: Video; Worksheet
Lesson plan outline: Part 1 (School quiz)
A large part of the poem explores the idea that adulthood involves forgetting the facts that we learned at school. The first part of the lesson plan involves giving students the following quiz:
* (Mathematics) Can you solve this quadratic equation? 3x2-3x-6 = 0
* (Science) Can you name the planets of our Solar System in the order of nearest to furthest from the sun?
* (Geography) What is the capital of Paraguay?
* (Geography) What is the state flower of New York? (Have a guess!)
* (Art) Who were the nine muses?
There are two aims here:
- To activate/pre-teach the language and ideas that are mentioned in the poem (quadratic equations, the planets, the nine muses, state flowers, country capitals).
- To take students back to school and find out how much they remember/have forgotten and explore this aspect of the poem.
Lesson plan outline: Part 2 (Prediction; Speaking)
Much of the imagery in the poem involves ‘memories going places’. Some of the isolated phrases would suggest that the poem is about a journey.
* kiss goodbye
* pack your bag
* a little fishing village where there are no phones
* the southern hemisphere
* a dark mythological river
In the second part of the lesson plan, students students are presented with a number of phrases and excerpts from the poem. They are asked to guess what the poem is about. Once they have made decisions, they are shown the video animation without sound. This should allow students to reinforce or reconsider their ideas.
Lesson plan outline: Part 3 (Intensive reading/listening)
I am a big fan of activities that involve simultaneous reading and listening. The narrator’s tone is one of resignation and complements the poem well. He also provides pauses, phrasing, intonation and other elements of vocal punctuation that may contribute to the listener’s comprehension and appreciation of the text.
During this last part of the lesson plan, students simultaneously read and listen to the poem before giving it a title and then discussing issues that arise.