Poems are often rich in figurative language and consequently can be an excellent teaching tool. Often having students learn to recite the poem from memory is a great additional challenge. Click here for more information.
Here are some ideas using the poem ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ (scroll down to read poem).
The Power of Names
- Discuss the names for each character and how the name reflects a trait.
- For this particular poem, you will also need to consider idioms (sharp as mustard) and colour associations (cowardly=yellow, red=love, purple=brave).
Similes and Metaphors
- Similes make comparisons using the structure ‘as….as a…..’ or ‘like a…’
- Metaphors make comparisons without using ‘as’ or ‘like’.
- How does the use of similes and metaphors build an image of the characters?
– Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose
– Belinda was a brave as a barrelful of bears.
– Mustard was a brave as a tiger in a cage.
– …snorting like an engine
– Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon
– Attacked the dragon like a robin at a worm.
- What images are portrayed by the selection of words?
– Ink trickled down….
– Blink was strategically mouseholed
- Identify and discuss ‘powerful verbs’ – yelped, clashed, jangling, gaped, gulped, gyrated, gobbled, embraced, mourned.
- Identify and discuss adjective and adverbs that help ‘build the picture’ – terrified, rudely, unmerciful.
- What do the characters’ behaviours tell you about their attitudes and values?
- What emotions underlie each character’s behaviours?
– Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
– Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs.
– They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
– Belinda paled, and she cried, “Help! Help!”
– Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
– Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
– Blink was strategically mouseholed.
– (The pirate) gulped some grog from his pocket flagon.
– (Custard) He attacked the pirate like a robin at a worm
- How does the behaviour of each character change throughout the story?
Proverbs & Idioms
- Proverbs and idioms introduce another layer of figurative connotation.
- This poems provides a good example of the proverb: Hens that make a lot of noise lay few eggs. People who brag about their abilities are often not that good.
- Students choose four creatures and give them names that reflect a characteristic.
- Students describe one creature in more detail using similes and metaphors.
- Students describe an action of one creature that reflects its personality.
- Using the structure of the poem as a template, students create their own poem.
- Encourage students to use a computer-based thesaurus to make their verbs ‘more powerful’.
- Encourage students to rewrite sentences to keep them short and precise.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little grey mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.
Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.
Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said, “Week!” which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Suddenly, suddenly, they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
“Meowch!” cried Ink and Belinda cried, “Ooh!”
For there was a pirate, climbing in the window.
Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.
Belinda paled, and she cried, “Help! Help!”
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink was strategically mouseholed.
But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He attacked the pirate like a robin at a worm.
The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets, but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.
Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink gyrated all excited,
Around the dragon that ate the pirate.
Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little grey mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.