Are Cities Jungles?

Using a poem that evokes the city as a jungle, to inspire creative thinking around the city as place and to explore stereotypes and perspectives.

KS3 | 60 Mins | Teacher led

KEY QUESTION: Do people sometimes make assumptions about places they haven’t visited?


Pie Corbett’s City jungle is a well-known and often taught poem, but it can also be a great starting point for talking about our cities with younger learners. Discussions and activities can explore feelings of safety, danger and our reactions to bustling places, as well as offer alternative ways of seeing the same place.

Introduce the concept of assumption. Discuss the ways in which we can build up pictures in our minds that may or may not be true. From this consider the ways in which we can make assumptions about places.

Introduce the poem City jungle by Pie Corbett (right) by explaining that this presents one view of a city and ask learners to consider whether there are other people who would view the same city differently.

City Jungle

“…At the roadside
hunched houses cough.
Newspapers shuffle by,
hands in their pockets.
The gutter gargles.
A motorbike snarls;
Dustbins flinch…”

Pie Corbett


Are cities dark and difficult places?

Which words in the poem are sinister, and show a city that is quite dangerous?

1. Read the poem aloud three times to the class, and each learner should use a large sheet of blank paper to draw any images that they see as they listen. Explain that they can draw images of anything related to the words they hear – there is no right answer.

2. Give the learners a little time to finish their pictures, then ask them to share their pictures and explain them in pairs. Sometimes it is useful to do a ‘gallery’ sharing as well, where the teacher plays some music, and learners walk around the class looking at each others’ ideas.

3. Explain that describing something by saying that it IS something else, is called a METAPHOR. Pick one of the pictures that shows a metaphor, and ask if learners can pick out any others.

4. Lead a short discussion about the city, and write key words that learners remember on cards, asking them to think about how the word makes them feel.

5. Then, ask learners to each write a sentence to describe the city, and what it is like.

6. Sharing some sentences may give an impression of the city that is full of danger, excitement and perhaps fear. At this point the teacher should explain that the class has looked at the MOOD in the poem, and will explore other ideas and feelings about cities next.

This activity will fill an hour quite easily, so it is the teacher’s choice about whether the next activity (vital in order to explore other views of cities) should follow on, or wait until the next day.

Special cities

Do people make assumptions about cities? Is it only cities that are dangerous or unsafe? Can villages be or feel unsafe or dangerous too? Could there be a poem called Village jungle that said similar things?

1. Show a variety of photos of the local city that are quite positive. This might include parks, interesting buildings, or places that learners may have visited such as a large swimming pool or football stadium.

2. Give one photo each to small groups and ask them to think of some words to describe the photo. They can write the words on postits and stick them on the photo, if it is printed.

3. Next the groups should find a metaphor – something that the photo looks like that is interesting or unusual. The teacher may need to model this by having extra images that are shown at this point. For example, explain that a tall building is a proud giant, or that a park is an ants nest of activity. Learners should present their metaphor to the rest of the class.

4. Ask learners to read the sentences that they wrote yesterday, and think about whether the city images they have looked at today have the same MOOD as Pie Corbett’s poem. If not, how would they describe the mood? What feelings do the pictures give them?

A third side of cities

Some learners and classes may be ready to think about more complex sides of cities than ‘negative’ and ‘positive’, or ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

1. Review the poem and the images, and think about some different people that might live in or visit the city. How would their opinions and feelings about the city differ?

2. Use role play to interview different characters about how they feel about the city, and why, then summarise the different views.

Learners’ resources and links

Official city websites and tourist websites are good places to find photos of different locations within a city.


Based on original material created by The Linking Network and Lifeworlds Learning

Resources to download