The Lives of Animals: Lesson 3 English, Yr 10

Fact as Fiction

Information to Teachers

It is assumed that students have read the text prior to completing the suggested activities.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will consider the role of literature and how it can be used to explore real-world concerns. Students will analyse poetry, discuss metafiction, and reflect on the issue of animals in captivity.  This lesson draws on a number of fiction and nonfiction texts and encourages students to re-evaluate their understanding of these genres.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes or 1-2 lessons.

Primary Resource

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources

  • De Botton, Alain. What is Literature for?. The School of Life, 2014,
  • Ethics Guide, Animals used for Entertainment. BBC, 2014,
  • Hughes, Ted. ‘The Jaguar’ The Hawk in the Rain. London: Faber & Faber, 1957.
  • Hughes, Ted. ‘Second Glance at a Jaguar’. Wodwo. London: Faber and Faber, 1967.
  • Kennedy, Patrick. An Introduction to Metafiction. ThoughtCo, 2020,
  • Rainer Maria. ‘The Panther’. The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Bilingual Edition (English and German Edition). Edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell, Vintage – Random House, 1989.
  • The Nonhuman Rights Project,

Inquiry Questions

  • To what extent can literature be used to explore local and/or global concerns?
  • How powerful is fiction in raising awareness of the plight of animals?

Suggested Learning Activities


Hold a class discussion on the following questions. Or, get students to complete this as a written task to test prior knowledge.

  • What is literature? What makes a text a work of literature as opposed to a work of fiction?
  • What is the canon? Do you think The Lives of Animals should be added to the Western canon? Why/Why not?
  • Are fiction and non-fiction texts types of literature?
  • What is the role/s of fiction/non-fiction texts?
  • Coetzee uses intertextuality – explain this technique.
  • What is metafiction, give examples if possible.
  • Read An Introduction to Metafiction by Patrick Kennedy.
  • How does The Lives of Animals fit this genre?
  • Watch What is Literature for? from the School of Life.



In the second half of the novella, Costello gives another lecture – this time to the Appleton College English Department. She titles it: ‘The Poets and the Animals.’

a) Re-read pp. 50-53.

b) Instruct students to read the poems referred to in the text. This could be done as a class, in small reading groups, or independently.

  • The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke.
  • The Jaguar by Ted Hughes.
  • Second Glance at a Jaguar by Ted Hughes. (Optional)

c) Annotate the poems.

Ask students to consider the following points for each poem and annotate accordingly:

  • What is happening in the poem? Write 1-2 sentences to explain.
  • How does the poem make you feel? What did you enjoy about it and why?
  • Comment on the form/structure.
  • What poetic techniques are used? (e.g. rhyme, alliteration, metaphors/comparative techniques, symbolism, caesura, enjambment etc.)
  • What does the poem suggest about keeping animals in captivity?
  • What other interpretations are evident?



Collate and clarify responses to the following quotations/statements on a whiteboard or in a shared document such as Google Docs:

  • Costello explains, “The poems ask us to imagine our way into that way of moving, to inhabit that body.” (Pg. 51).
  • How do you feel about this statement? Does the poem allow you to imagine your way into the body of the jaguar? If so, how does it feel? Do you think the poem accurately captures how the jaguar might be feeling – why/why not?
  • Costello comments that this is “poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him”. (Pg. 51).
  • Use this quotation as a launch pad for discussing perspectives. Can we ever really ‘see’ from an animal’s point of view?

Encourage students to support their ideas with specific evidence from the poem/s or novella.



In pairs, ask students to share their ideas and opinions on how literature can be used to understand situations faced by animals, in this case; captivity.

How does what these poems portray relate to their own understanding and experiences of zoos?

Some sources that could be used to guide students:



Instruct students to write a 250-word reflection on ONE of the inquiry questions below:

  • To what extent can literature be used to explore local or global concerns?
  • How powerful is fiction in raising awareness about the plight of animals?



Students to compose their own poem which draws on one or more of the topics/issues covered in this lesson.

Encourage students to use a range of poetic devices and consider form and structure when writing.

Up next, Lesson 4 – Animals and Ethics

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