Analytical Writing – the poetry of Bruce Dawe

weapons training

Bruce Dawe’s poetry reveals important concerns about Australian society in the post war period, and has the focus of study with my current Preliminary Standard English class. After reading, discussing and annotating each poem, students are required to submit two analytical paragraphs. After feedback and further discussion, students redraft their writing to consolidate their explanations: we read our work aloud and peer feedback is also invited.

General feedback comments after paragraphs submitted for the first poem, Enter Without So Much As Knocking, included:

  • titles should be underlined when handwriting OR italicised when typing, not both
  • quote is not a feature – at best you are retelling the content if you don’t identify specific language features
  • reduce repetition – read aloud to ‘hear’ errors
  • avoid starting a sentence with ‘An example of …’
  • logical order: discuss features and examples in the order that they appear in the poem – top down. With experience, consider a more sophisticated and synthesized response
  • avoid abbreviations such as eg. & etc.
  • be clear about your ideas rather than using slashes/between words or suggesting and indicating that maybe or perhaps an idea is shown
  • aim to discuss some features well that suit the question, rather than list many and neglecting a strong explanation
  • aim to include different sentence starters – makes changes when editing and redrafting
  • write sentences across your evidence table, where columns are labelled Technique – Example – Explanation. Consider how these sample sentences could be completed be using information from different columns:

Dawe’s use of feature in example reminds us that life is explanation.

We understand that explanation through the clever technique in example.

technique, as shown in example creates a strong image which explanation.

Another useful class activity is to project a ‘volunteer’ paragraph so students can identify weaknesses and suggest improvements.

The following paragraph is an early draft to explain the key ideas conveyed in Weapons Training.

In Bruce Dawe’s poem Weapons Training Dawe effectively expresses Everyday life in the Royal Air Force. Dawe also effectively shows us how hard and mean the commander is to the recruits of the Airforce. Dawes use of conjuctions show us that there was more action before this incident. One example of this is when he starts his poem weapons training with the word “And”.  Dawe also challenges the recruits Dawe portrays the drill sergeant as an intimidating character through his use of hyperbole. “when I say right I want to hear those eyeballs click and the gentle pitter patter of falling dandruff”. This shows that he has high expectations of the recruits.

Here is the edited paragraph created through discussion in class:

In Weapons Training, Dawe effectively expresses everyday life in the Royal Australian Air Force. We understand that the commander is hard and mean because he gives his instructions in first person through a freee verse form. This allows the reader to set their own pace as the poem is part of a larger speech which we recognise due to the opening conjunction “And’. Dawe’s use of hyperbole in “I want to hear those eyeballs click” means that he expects the recruits to be attentive and silent. Repetition, revealed in “You’re dead, dead, dead” emphasises the need to obey the drill sergeant.

Image labelled for reuse through Goggle Images: Dandenong Police Paddocks Training

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