I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

Martin Luther King (1957-1968)

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964

Dumb Insolence

by Adrian Mitchell
Sullen boy staring

I’m big for ten years old
Maybe that’s why they get at me

Teachers, parents, cops
Always getting at me

When they get at me

I don’t hit em
They can do you for that

I don’t swear at em
They can do you for that

I stick my hands in my pockets
And stare at them

And while I stare at them
I think about sick

They call it dumb insolence

They don’t like it
But they can’t do you for it

Suggested approach

Brainstorm a list of feelings. Write them up on the board. It may be useful to group them into categories, perhaps positive and negative. Get the students to divide into pairs. Spend a couple of minutes playing a couple of mini-games:

1. What's in a Word: The first player chooses a word from the board and then helps the second player to guess it. This is done by saying nouns one at a time. One noun, one guess until the word is found and the players switch roles.

2. Face Mime: The first player chooses a word from the board and tries to express it by thinking of the word and making an expression. The second player gets three guesses before the answer is revealed and the players switch roles.

Next clean the board and play hangman or the equivalent using the phrase dumb insolence. Ask if anyone knows the meaning of either word or the phrase as a whole. Then go through the poem.

Shuffle the strips. The students take turns taking a strip at random and reading the line on the strip. Answer any questions about vocabulary and meaning. When all the strips are handed out have the students construct their own poem by putting the strips in order. Can they notice that the line "And while I stare at them" must come after, "And stare at them". Finally read through the poem and the students reorder the lines as necessary. Then give out the sheet and go through the poem one more time.

Invite the students to relate any times when the resisted or defied authority and share one or two from your own experience.


For large classes either put the students into groups of 4-6 and use multiple sets of strips or make one large set. Students aim to stand side by side and display each line in order as the poem is read.

Put up 19th May 2018