Teaching Strategies – 5 Ways To Eat Poetry When Relief Teaching

Teaching StrategiesEating Poetry - Wild Teaching Strategies

Teaching strategies that kids love.  How delicious! Kids really love poetry especially when it is by one of the greatest of all story tellers, Andrew "Banjo" Paterson. Ok. I admit it. I love Australian poetry so I am not totally unbiased. This is one of my favourite relief teaching strategies.


Teaching Strategies - Reading Poetry

If you haven't read  The GEEBUNG POLO CLUB you should.

What makes this one of my favourite teaching strategies is the age of old story of  "country versus city". This is one of the storied that kids love.

  • Privilege V Not,
  • Posh V Not-posh,
  • Wealth V Poor.
  • The age-old battle of country V city.

And I love to perform and I really do perform for this lesson.

Teaching Strategies that work - One.

This teaching strategy is about allowing the  kids the chance to MEMORISE & PERFORM parts of the play to each other, their friends, the class, other classes.

I start off by giving the kids the words to the Geebung Polo Club - but turned over.

On a signal they turn the sheet over, read the two first two lines and turn it back.

"It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,

That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club."

Here's where the fun starts and where your mastery of effective teaching strategies comes to play.

The kids have to "eat" the poetry. Unpack these two lines. Build the visual cues.

  • Describe the country. (dusty, dry, steep - what makes you think that?)
  • Where did theY form the Geebung Polo Club. (the pub, round the fireplace, dinner table.)
  • How did they form the club. (I mimic pub chatter)
Some kids do not know what a polo game is. YouTube to the rescue.
At this point it is great to practice reciting it
  • as a class,
  • as individuals,
  • with partners.

The teaching strategies are all about loving these two lines and knowing them off by heart. For some kids this is the first time they have ever been asked to learn any poem off by heart.

Now tackle to next two lines.

"They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,

And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;"

  • What does long and wiry mean?
  • Why were they good horsemen?
  • What do you think they did for a job?
Work with the kids as you unpack the story of the ageless battle of  MIGHT V POWER.
After each couple of lines do a recital practice.
Have the kids practice their lines with each other and in front of the class. Once you establish this pattern, the kids get on a roll.
Like all teaching strategies, variety is the spice of life. So while this might be the meat and potatoes you need some dessert occasionally.
After working your way through the first stanza, try these
  • "You have 5 minutes to draw the mountain"
  • "you have 3 minutes to draw a Geebung on his horse"
  • "Draw a stick figure. Now dress him like a Geebung. 2 minutes. Go!"
You have to love the poem for the kids to love it. So if you don't love Geebungs, select another. I progress through the poem and act out the story as the battle ensues.
Generally, I tackle one the first stanza as one session and then STOP.
Sort of build the anticipation.
I tackle the second stanza where we meet the Cuff and Collar team.

Teaching Strategies that work - Two.

Learning the poem takes a few lessons but knowing the poem takes longer. Poetry is the product of the poet so you can't really know The Geebung Polo Club until you know the life of A B Paterson.

teaching strategies with banjo patterson

I put his life on PowerPoint and we work through his life as a note-taking exercise. Banjo's life actually mirrors Geebung Polo Club.

Little Country boy moves to the city. So while we work through his life story, I relate the tale to the poem.

As a writing exercise the kids have to rewrite his story as a biography.

Kids often complain about this after having so much fun with the poem - but hey!

Life isn't all beer and skittles, is it?

Suck it up and get over it!

Teaching Strategies that work - Three.


I have to say this is one of the teaching strategies I hate but the kids love. I'm not a fan of art but I am prepared to suck it up and get over it.

I give the kids plenty of notice so they can get prepared.

With heaps of junks and small props they make a diorama of a scene from the poem.

Good luck using these teaching strategies is your next relief teaching gig.

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(6) comments

[…] lessons. When I started relief teaching I refined a lesson based on Banjo Patterson‘s Geebung Polo Club. I loved it, the kids loved and it became a bit of chatter around the school. Teachers knew that […]


I’ve not done poetry before. I tried this lesson and the kids loved learning the poem. They were totally engaged, just like you said. I used art as a final activity. The kids drew a picture of a scene from the poem. Cool activity. Do you have any more?


This is a poem I have used many times. I mainly get the kids to act it out and have a lot of fun learning the vocab, the expressions etc. I have also used ‘The Man from Ironbark” to great effect.
I’ve also used the acting out technique with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and some of the Greek myths. With these you have to concentrate on the action to keep the interest up and you have to leave bits out. The kids can also recite some of the dialogue line by line after you, especially the classic “Romeo, Romeo where for art though …’ You do have choose your class because some of the romantic bits can cause waves among the children – so maybe not something to do on the first day with a new class. I have used other Shakespeare and usually get keen participation and no wonder most of the plays have romance, murder, revenge, fights, ghosts – something for everyone.


    Great stuff Martin. Some good advice especially about the romance lines. I have never used Shakespeare which is odd because I have always enjoyed his plays. His poetry – not so much. Thanks for your comments.

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