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Blue Bird

Posted on January 22, 2012 by kierandonaghy

This EFL lesson is designed around a short film inspired by a poem by Charles Bukowski. Students watch the short film and write a verse of poetry inspired by the short film. Students then listen and read the poem. For homework they find out information about the life of the poet.



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Language level: Upper-intermediate (B2.1) – Advanced (B2.2)

Learner type: Mature teens; adults

Time: 60 minutes

Activity: Watching a short film; creating a verse of a poem; listening to a poem

Topic: Poetry

Language: Language of drudgery of everyday life

Materials: Short film, video, Wordle and poem

Downloadable materials: Blue Bird lesson plan instructions      Blue Bird Charles Bukowski


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Step 1

Write poetry on the board. Ask your students to name some poets who they like. Ask them if they can recite any lines of poetry in their language.


Step 2

Tell your students that they are going to watch a short film which was inspired by a poem. Show them the film and ask them to say what story they think the film tells. Also ask them to suggest any words which they think might be in the poem.



After watching the film put students in pairs and ask them to discuss the story and come up with vocabulary they think might be in the poem.

Get feedback from your students.


Step 3

Show students the Wordle below which has been created using the most frequent words in the poem. Go through the vocabulary.



Step 4

Put your students into small groups and tell them that you would like them to try to write a verse of the poem using some of the words in the Wordle. Give them the first line of the poem:

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out

Ask them to continue the first verse. Give them 5 minutes to write the first verse. After 5 minutes ask a spokesperson from each group to read out their verse.


Step 5

Tell your students they are going to listen to the actor Harry Dean Stanton reading poem. Play the video but do not show the images. They should try to understand the poem. After listening to the poem put students into pairs and ask them to discuss the poem for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes get feedback from the whole class.



Step 6

Give the students the poem and ask them to read it. Get them to read the poem and listen to it at the same time. Then ask them what the poem is about.


Step 7

Now show the video with pictures of Charles Bukowski

From the poem and the pictures they see in the second video ask the students what type of person they think the poet is and what type of life he has led.



Give your students the name of the poet: Charles Bukowski.  Ask them to find out as much information as they can about his life and work. In the following class ask for information about the poet.

Charles Bukowski (1920 –1994) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. He had a very troubled childhood and became an alcoholic at an early age. He wrote about the life of poor Americans, alcohol, prostitutes and the drudgery of everyday life.


I hope you enjoy this English language lesson.

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Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

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15 thoughts on “Blue Bird

  1. Great post! I love Bukowski! Just a tiny comment, while reading he says ‘screw up my sales in New York’ not Europe as the written poem says here.
    A beautiful animation too. Thanks, I’ll see how it works on my tough teens : )

    • Hi Helen,
      Thanks a lot. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. You’re right about the difference in the poem in the video, but I wanted to use that video as it has photos of Bukowski at different stages in his life and shows how he changed physically and perhaps emotionally and morally.
      All the best,

  2. Thanks a lot for this beautiful idea. Both the poem and the videos made me feel very strong emotions. Pure poetry!

  3. Kieran once more I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of your choices and even though I’m teaching young teens (i don’t know whether they would grasp the shades of meaning in this beautiful poem) I feel very grateful to you for letting me know this poet and a bit of his life as well. The animated film is so great and it can be used even to stir other ideas
    thanks so much


    • Hi Elsa,
      I’m really happy that you like the poem and the lesson. I think young teens might get some of the nuances, it’d probably work with quite mature teenagers. Bukowski’s poetry is really beautiful and timeless.
      All the best,

  4. I have a slightly different interpretation of Bluebird. The connotations of
    bluebirds are those of contentedness and happiness. Perhaps Buk was saying that he is actually happy inside, but keeps that hidden because his persona of being a tortured poetic soul is what fuels his work and appeals to his non-mainstream audience. Otherwise, he may have used, say, a dove or a mouse, which have more timid and soft connotations than a bluebird. The poem may mislead the reader who does not think more carefully about the symbolism of the words. Just as The Road Not Taken is often interpreted as the author’s gladness that he has taken a certain path – which Frost himself said was not the case, Buk may have fooled us.

    • Hi Jason,
      Thanks a lot for your comments. Your interpretation is really interesting and thought-provoking, thanks for sharing it.
      All the best,

  5. If I was a student, I’ll love this way of learning language. It changes the traditional way of doing reading and listening. At the beginning of L2 learning, offering an environment of target language is extremely significant. Watching a film has the advantage of both image and interesting. Meanwhile, it inceases the interaction of teacher–student and student–student.
    A great way of L2 learning, thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Hi Wenjing,
      Thanks a lot for your kind comments. I completely agre with you that films are great for engaging and motivating students to read texts they might not otherwise be interesting in reading.
      All the bet,

  6. I am an EFL learner. Really enjoy this lesson plan. Never thought of a poem could be taught this way. That’s so ingenious! Poems are the art of heart and this lesson plan gets me start off from my heart. I like this poem.

    • Hi Sally,
      Thanks a lot for your thoughtful comments. It’s great to hear from a learner as most of the people who comment are teachers, nice to know that learners enjoy the lessons too.
      All the best,

      • I am looking forward to seeing the silent film, “The Artist”, will be your ingredient to cook a good lesson one day.


        • Hi Sally,
          I haven’t seen The Artist yet, but definetely going to watch it and maybe do a lesson plan on the trailer or a clip. Thanks for the recommendation.
          All the best,