(1) Why was the question asked in ASSET test?
Poetry comprehension encourages the mind to make the vital leap from memorization to meaning. A poem shows a poet’s feeling, thinking, imagination and analysis of experiences. Visualising these experiences as a scene unfolding before the readers helps them to comprehend the poem, as well as awaken their emotions and feelings. This question assesses if students are able to interpret the correct reasons for the actions of the main character in the poem.
(2) What did students answer?
45% of 6,763 students chose Option B, the correct answer, ‘so that the child would not complain about Daddy’, while 23% chose Option D, ‘so that the child would know how sweets taste’ a common wrong answer.
Possible reason for choosing A: Students may not have understood the meaning of the word ‘wolfing’ or ‘diet’. But they may have thought that ‘diet’ referred to having to eat only sweets. The word ‘secret’ may have given them the idea that Daddy was hiding because he did not like to eat the sweets. They seem to have missed the fact that Daddy liked sweets very much and so was actually hiding and eating them. The title of the poem also suggests that Daddy was on a diet and so was probably not allowed to eat sweets, which students have, very likely, not absorbed.
Possible reason for choosing C: The fact that adults reward children, when they are not naughty, with sweets, may have been the strong influencer in choosing this answer. It also means that students are not really reading the poem to understand it.
Possible reason for choosing D: Parents’ instructions that children are normally not allowed to eat sweets for fear of developing cavities or worms in the stomach may have been the reason why children chose this answer. So they may have thought that Daddy was allowing the child to taste sweets by hiding and giving it to him.
Students do not seem to re-read the poem to understand it, but tend to pick on words and contexts that relate to their daily life, to answer questions. They seem to have overlooked the following:
- the meaning of ‘diet’ which clearly hints at eating only some things, from the line ‘Taking care with what he eats.’
- the child’s decision not to tell anyone about Daddy’s actions, which were wrong.
- a repetition of Daddy being on a diet in the second stanza.
- the implication of the expression ‘secret feasting’.
Had they followed this, they would have been also to understand that Daddy allowed the child to have sweets, so that he would not tell the others that Daddy was doing something wrong.
4) How do we handle this?
Ask students to read the poem slowly and many times. Ask them simple five ‘Wh’ questions: ‘Who, What,
When, where, Why’ and then ask them ‘How’.
Ask students to paint pictures in their minds to visualize what story the poet is narrating to them as you ask them simple questions, like:
Who is the poem about? Who are the main people in the poem? What is each person doing? Where were they? What did each one see? When did this story take place? What do you think each person said to the other? What did they do after that? Why did they do that? How did they do that? What could have happened in the end?
Keep putting down the points on the board as in the graphic below. Follow this by asking them to answer the question in this teacher sheet and justify their answers with reasons.
http://www.englishbiz.co.uk/mainguides/poetrythesis.htm (A guide to interpretation of poems)
Established in 2001, Educational Initiatives believes in making a difference in education through personalized learning and ensuring that students learn with understanding.
EI has over 15 years of expertise in education, with a deep understanding of child psychology and efficient methods of teaching, based on detailed research and a formidable database of student learning through ASSET.
Our detailed research has proven that children today respond to rote-based questions relatively well, however, they fail to answer unfamiliar or application based questions due to unclear core concepts.
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