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Dancing Ganapati

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By Debjani Chatterjeepoet

Central to this on-screen resource is an audio poem, ‘Dancing Ganapati’, read by the poet, Debjani Chatterjee. Additional screens give information on the author, on Ganapati, and the religious and cultural significance of elephants in history.

In Hindu culture, Ganapati is the the God of Wisdom and Good Luck and the ‘Remover of Obstacles’. His name means ‘Lord of the Ganas’ – the ganas being demi-gods who attend on Ganapati’s father, Shiva. He is also popularly called Ganesh or Ganesa. His elephant head has earned him the epithet Gajanan (‘Elephant-face’).


Shared learning and teaching

Before reading

Display the name ‘Debjani Chatterjee’ on the board. What would the children like to know about this person? Bank the questions and refer back to them later.

Sharing the text

  • Listen to the poem. Discuss the way it is read and what they gain from hearing it as opposed to reading it to themselves. Discuss the choice of background music. How does the poem make you feel?
  • Investigate any unfamiliar language – eg, pachyderm/savoured.
  • Read the poem up to the full stop, noting how the punctuation helps you to read it effectively. Listen again to the recording and note where the reader pauses.
  • Discuss how the ideas are held within each line, but how the sense is made via reading up to the full stops.
  • How has the writer created such clear images? Explain the concept of high impact words. Focus on the effectiveness of the verbs and adjectives. What sort of questions would the writer have asked herself in order to select the perfect words? Return to the writer’s probable feelings about the elephant and refer to the biography during this discussion.
  • Compare with other poems about animals, such as ‘A Spider’ by Colette Bryce or ‘Taking out the Tigers’ by Brian Moses. Discuss how the writer creates their picture and communicates their feelings about the animal.

Further reading

Hear Colette Bryce reading her poem ‘A Spider’ at Taking Out the Tigers by Brian Moses was published as an A2 poster in Literacy Time Years 5 and 6, Issue 39 and appears in Brian’s collection Taking Out the Tigers, published by Macmillan, ISBN 978 03304 17976.

Guided group activities

  • Think of words to describe animals in pictures. Have a thesaurus race to find alternative words to those listed.
  • Look at the poetic devices used in the poem in more detail – enjambment, metaphors, etc.
  • Study the biography in more detail, revise the features of a biography and compare it to other biographies, such as that of Anita Ganeri (On-screen resource 1) and Desmond Tutu (Poster 2). What is the purpose of having the biography along with the poem?
  • Navigate the information texts accompanying each elephant picture in the history section. How does this information aid our appreciation of the poem? Compare the purpose and style of these texts to the biography and the poem.

Ideas for writing

  • Become a group of authors and publishers for the week, taking on different roles to put together an anthology of poems written by class members. Use the role cards on the activity sheet below to explore the various jobs. Make and wear badges stating each child’s role throughout the activity.
  • As well as – or as an alternative to – an anthology, create an online text similar to the resource, made up of a biography of a poet (possibly themselves), a poem – either recorded or written, and reports on the animals featured in their poems.
  • Research different animals, perhaps animals considered scared by other cultures. Make shadow puppets then write a short play featuring them or use them to animate the poetry.

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 4 through to Year 7, and to identify links with Year 5 and 6 Planning Units.

Speaking and listening

  • Working in pairs or small groups, create performances of your poems or of ‘Dancing Ganapati’. Use props and/or musical instruments to enhance the performance.
  • Give presentations about different sacred animals or other poets.
  • Debate the rights and wrongs of using animals as labour (for example, elephants for logging).


  • Perform ‘Dancing Ganapati’ and/or your own poems and evaluate the performances.
  • Discuss/reflect on decisions made as authors during the writing process. Try out any online texts produced and evaluate them.
  • Listen to and comment on the presentations about animals/poets.