Duelling poets and visual representations

Learning Activity
Schools & Teachers
Stage 4
Students will learn about A. B. Paterson and his contemporary, Henry Lawson. They will engage in a poetic battle, before analysing the visual features of illustrations from the 1970 picture book ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and designing their own illustration for their own poetry.

Learning intention

Students are learning to: 

  • play with language to express an opinion 
  • understand how visual features convey meaning 

Success criteria

Students will be successful when they can: 

  • express a perspective through poetry 
  • recognize visual features in an illustration 
  • connect the use of visual features with the effect on meaning 

Student Activities

Poetic duels

Students will find out about A.B. Paterson and his poetic duelling with Henry Lawson, before evaluating who they believe won the city vs. country debate. They will then participate in their own poetic duel with a partner.  

Number of set tasks:

Visual representations

Students will examine the picture book illustrations for Waltzing Matilda and engage in a visual analysis. They will then make deliberate choices when illustrating their own poetry.  

Number of set tasks:

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum: English K-10

  • EN4-RVL-01 uses a range of personal, creative and critical strategies to read texts that are complex in their ideas and construction 
  • EN4-URA-01 analyses how meaning is created through the use of and response to language forms, features and structures 
  • EN4-URC-01 identifies and explains ways of valuing texts and the connections between them 
  • EN4-ECA-01 creates personal, creative and critical texts for a range of audiences by using linguistic and stylistic conventions of language to express ideas 



  • Explore the main ideas and thematic concerns posed by a text for meaning 
  • Engage with the ways texts contain layers of meaning, or multiple meanings 
  • Explain personal responses to characters, situations and issues in texts, recognising the role of written, oral or visual language in influencing these personal responses 
  • Explain how the use of language forms and features in texts might create multiple meanings 


  • Explore how language and text are acts of representation that range from objective to subjective and may offer layers of literal or implied meanings, and apply this understanding in own texts 
  • Understand how language forms, features and structures, in a variety of texts, vary according to context, purpose and audience, and demonstrate this understanding through written, spoken, visual and multimodal responses 
  • Analyse how figurative language and devices can represent ideas, thoughts and feelings to communicate meaning 
  • Apply knowledge of how different patterns and combinations of figurative language devices can shape meaning throughout a text through established or dynamic associations, and experiment with these devices in own texts 
  • Recognise how texts engage and position the audience to perceive events, characters and ideas using narrative voice and focalisers, tense, sequencing and intrusion, and apply this understanding in own texts  


  • Analyse how texts can participate in larger, established patterns of narrative, purpose, theme and tone by exhibiting and challenging conventions, and experiment with conventions in own texts 
  • Analyse how texts can draw on elements of other texts to enrich meaning 


  • Apply understanding of the structural and grammatical codes and conventions of writing to shape meaning when composing imaginative, informative and analytical, and persuasive written texts 
  • Participate in informal discussions about texts and ideas, including speculative and exploratory talk, to consolidate personal understanding and generate new ideas 
  • Use rhetorical language to shape ideas and express a perspective or argument 
  • Make vocabulary choices that draw on, or contribute to, stylistic features of writing and influence meaning 
  • Critical and creative thinking  
  • Information and communication technology capability 
  • Literacy  
  • Personal and social capability 

In each Year of Stage 4 students must study examples of

  • print texts 
  • visual texts 
  • media, multimedia and digital texts. 


Across the stage, the selection of texts must give students experience of: 

  • texts which are widely regarded as quality literature 
  • a widely defined Australian literature, including texts that give insights into Aboriginal experiences in Australia 

Background notes for teachers and students

Glossary of terms:  

Framing: The way in which elements in a still or moving image are arranged to create a specific interpretation of the whole. Strong framing creates a sense of enclosure around elements while weak framing creates a sense of openness. 

Gaze: The directed look of either a viewer or figure in an image, including demand and offer. 

Reading path: The manner in which the eye of the viewer is led round an image, usually by drawing the viewer to the most salient or important elements in the composition. 

Salience: A strategy of emphasis, highlighting what is important in a text. In images, salience is created through strategies like placement of an item in the foreground, size, and contrast in tone or colour. In writing, salience can occur through placing what is important at the beginning or at the end of a sentence or paragraph or through devices for example underlining or italics. 

Vector: An item that directs our eyes towards a focal point, for example when the subject in a visual text is pointing or looking in a certain direction. As the reader or viewer, our eyes will follow the direction in which they are pointing or looking 

Visual features: Visual components of a text for example placement, salience, framing, representation of action or reaction, shot size, social distance, and camera angle. 

Visual language: Language that contributes to the meaning of an image or the visual components of a multimodal text and are selected from a range of visual features like placement, salience, framing, representation of action or reaction, shot size, social distance, and camera angle. Visual language can also include elements, for example symbol, colour, scene and frame composition, setting and landscape, lighting and the use of editing. 

Visual literacy: The ability to decode, interpret, create, question, challenge and evaluate texts that communicate with visual images as well as, or rather than, words. Visually literate people can read the intended meaning in a visual text such as an advertisement or a film shot, interpret the purpose and intended meaning, and evaluate the form, structure and features of the text. They can also use images in a creative and appropriate way to express meaning. 


From: NSW Education Standards Authority Glossary