The Iron Man – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Teachers! Are you seeking an engaging text to introduce and explore descriptive writing in the classroom? Look no further than The Iron Man by Ted Hughes.

This captivating story is perfect for supporting teaching English Literature, as it provides a wealth of opportunities to discuss themes such as conflict, fear and redemption – all essential elements of narrative fiction.

In this blog post, we’ll explore literary devices used in the story and give examples of descriptive writing I have used in my classroom.

Related: For more, check out our article on Silverfin by Charlie Higson  here.

The Iron Man

Literary Devices Used In The Iron Man

The Iron Man is a fascinating novel that has captivated readers for generations. It combines fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements and utilizes literary tools to further the story.

For example, it often uses symbolism to highlight the power, war, human rights, and justice.

A distinguishing feature of the book is its use of foreshadowing: subtle hints are given by characters or events that indicate what will come later in the story.

There are also several examples of motifs scattered throughout the text, recurring images or objects that act as a reminder of essential ideas.

Altogether these devices keep readers engaged with the story and make The Iron Man an exceptional work of literature.

Throughout the novel, Hughes employs a variety of literary devices to drive home his message about the heroic journey and the consequences of humanity’s disregard for nature.

For example, the titular Iron Man is seen as a symbol of human progress and technological advancements.

However, he ultimately represents both positive and negative aspects – he is capable of helping humans but also has destructive powers that can challenge human morals.

Additionally, symbolic images such as stars and moons represent light in a world engulfed in darkness – suggesting that there must be hope for growth even in the darkest times.

Through the subtle use of these devices, Hughes conveys his important messages about morality, fate, and hope within The Iron Man’s narrative.

Key Themes and Characters:


  1. Self-sacrifice: The novel explores the theme of self-sacrifice through the character of Iron Man, who is willing to give up his life to save Earth from destruction.
  2. Fear and misunderstanding: Fear and misunderstanding are central themes in “The Iron Man.” Many humans fear Iron Man because he is different, but Hogarth befriends him and helps others understand he is not a threat.
  3. Environmentalism: The novel has solid environmentalist themes, highlighting the dangers of pollution and industrialization on human and animal life.


The Iron Man: A giant metal robot that falls from space and is initially feared by humans. He eventually becomes friends with Hogarth and helps save Earth from destruction.

Hogarth Hughes: A young boy who discovers Iron Man in a field near his home. He befriends him and helps others understand that he is not a threat.

Nora Hunter: A local farmer who witnesses some of the Iron Man’s actions and becomes terrified of him until she eventually realizes that he is not dangerous.

Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon: An alien creature who threatens to destroy Earth unless someone can defeat him in combat.

Describing The Iron Man

The Iron Man was a towering figure made entirely of metal, with eyes like glowing red coals and a chest that hummed with magical energy. He stood alone in the field, his massive frame silhouetted against the setting sun.

As he walked across the countryside, the Iron Man left a trail of destruction in his wake – trees were uprooted, boulders were smashed to pieces, and the very earth shook beneath his feet. Yet there was something oddly majestic about him, like a force of nature come to life.

With each step he took, gears and pistons whirred and clanked deep within his metal body. His movements were slow, ponderous, but inevitable – nothing could stand in his way.

From a distance, the Iron Man looked like some giant insect – all spindly legs and angular joints. But up close, he was anything but delicate; he radiated raw power and strength.

The Iron Man’s head was massive and boxy, with two glowing yellow eyes that seemed to pierce straight through you. His mouth was a thin slit in his metal faceplate – it never moved when he spoke.

Nobody knew what to make of him when he first emerged from the pit where he had been buried for centuries. Was he a friend or foe? A hero or a monster? It would take time for everyone to find out.

There was something almost tragic about Iron Man’s appearance – as if he had been forged out of pain and suffering rather than steel and iron.

Despite his fearsome appearance, there was also something childlike about the Iron Man – an innocence that shone through despite all his mechanical might.

Iron Man seemed almost alien in some ways – as if he had come from another world entirely. His movements were sometimes jerky and unnatural, as if he were still learning to navigate this strange new place.

The Iron Man’s eyes glowed brighter than before as night fell over the countryside – twin beacons shining out into the darkness like lighthouses on a stormy shore.

Describing The Space Bat Angel Dragon

The Space Bat Angel Dragon was a creature unlike any other – part dragon, part bat, part angel, and all alien. Its wings were vast and leathery. Its scales shimmered like diamonds in the light.

The Space Bat Angel Dragon descended upon the planet below with a roar that shook the stars. Its eyes blazed with an otherworldly fire as it surveyed its new domain.

There was something almost regal about the Space Bat Angel Dragon’s bearing – as if it were some cosmic monarch come to claim its throne.

As it soared through space on wings that seemed to span entire galaxies, the Space Bat Angel Dragon left a trail of stardust in its wake.

Despite its fearsome appearance, there was also something strangely beautiful about the Space Bat Angel Dragon – like a work of art sculpted by some divine hand.

From a distance, it looked like nothing more than a speck against the vast expanse of space – but as it drew closer, you could see every detail of its massive form.

The Space Bat Angel Dragon’s roar echoed across time and space – a sound that could shatter planets and stir up supernovas.

Even among all the strange creatures that inhabited this universe, there was nothing quite like the Space Bat Angel Dragon; it was truly one-of-a-kind.

As it spiralled through the void at breakneck speeds, trailing sparks and flame in its wake, you could almost feel yourself being pulled along for the ride.

Though many had tried to capture or subdue it over the years, none had succeeded; better or worse, the Space Bat Angel Dragon remained free to roam wherever it wished in this infinite cosmos.

Other Resources

  1. The official Ted Hughes website, has a “The Iron Man” section that includes background information, discussion questions, and classroom activities: .
  2. The British Council’s TeachingEnglish website has a lesson plan for “The Iron Man, ” including pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities:
  3. Scholastic has a teacher’s guide for “The Iron Man” that includes discussion questions, writing prompts, and extension activities:
  4. The Guardian has an article with ideas for teaching “The Iron Man,” including creative writing prompts and discussion questions:
  5. Twinkl has a range of resources for teaching “The Iron Man,” including comprehension worksheets, character analysis activities, and creative writing tasks:

Example Lesson Plan For The Iron Man

Title: Creative Writing Prompts for “The Iron Man”

Grade level: 4th-6th grade, Years 3-6

Objective: Students can use their “The Iron Man” knowledge to create original creative writing pieces.

This lesson plan aims to help students develop their creative writing skills while deepening their understanding of the novel “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes.

Using writing prompts inspired by the book, students can draw on specific details and themes from the story and use their imagination to create original stories.

This activity encourages students to think critically about the book’s events and characters and apply their knowledge in a new way. This lesson plan can also foster a love for reading and writing by allowing students to engage with literature fun and creatively.


  • Copies of “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes
  • Writing prompts (see below)
  • Writing paper
  • Pencils/pens


  1. Begin by reviewing the main characters and plot points of “The Iron Man.” Ask students to share their favourite parts of the story and what they found most exciting or surprising.
  2. Introduce the concept of creative writing and explain that students will use their imagination to create original stories inspired by “The Iron Man.”
  3. Hand out the writing prompts (see below) and give students time to choose one that interests them.
  4. Allow students time to brainstorm ideas for their story individually or in small groups. Please encourage them to use details from the book as inspiration and add their unique twists and pictures.
  5. Once students have a rough idea of what they want to write about, give them time to draft their stories on paper.
  6. After drafting, please encourage students to read their work aloud and provide feedback to each other.
  7. Finally, allow students to revise and edit their work before submitting final drafts.

Writing Prompts:

  1. Write a story about what happened after Hogarth helped Iron Man defeat the space dragon.
  2. Imagine that you are Hogarth’s best friend – write a letter describing your reaction when you first hear about his adventures with Iron Man.
  3. Write a new ending for “The Iron Man” where he doesn’t save Earth from destruction.
  4. Create a character who lives in the same world as Iron Man but has never met him – describe how they would react if they saw him for the first time.
  5. Write a story exploring why some humans feared Iron Man and others weren’t.
  6. Imagine you are Hogarth’s teacher – assign him an essay about his experiences with Iron Man and write his response.
  7. Write a scene where Hogarth tries to teach Iron Man how humans express emotions like love, sadness or happiness.

Assessment: Students will be assessed based on completion of their final drafts, creativity/originality of ideas, adherence to grammar/spelling conventions, and ability to incorporate details from “The Iron Man” in their writing.

Extension Activities:

  • Have students illustrate scenes from their stories.
  • Organize a class reading where each student shares part of their story aloud.
  • Have students compare/contrast versions of similar stories within different cultures (Iron man vs Superheroes).

Through discussing the literary devices used in the story and sharing examples of descriptive writing from my classroom, we have illuminated the potential of this text to enrich your English Literature lessons.

Can you envisage the lively conversations and critical thinking that The Iron Man could inspire?

Remember, with the right text and approach, teaching descriptive writing doesn’t have to be daunting. With careful planning, creativity, and a touch of literary magic from Ted Hughes, you can turn this challenge into an enriching educational journey.

So why wait? Dive into the mesmerizing world of The Iron Man today, and watch as your classroom transforms into a vibrant hub of literary exploration!


Q1: What makes ‘The Iron Man’ a good choice for teaching English Literature?

A1: Excellent question! ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes is not only a captivating narrative but also a treasure trove of literary devices and themes such as conflict, fear, and redemption. Can you imagine the depth of understanding this could foster among your students?

Q2: How does the planning overview support teaching ‘The Iron Man’?

A2: Great query! The planning overview provides a comprehensive guide to each chapter, ensuring a thorough exploration of the book’s concepts and themes. Can you see how this could streamline your teaching process and enhance your lessons?

Q3: What themes from ‘The Iron Man’ can we focus on during class discussions?

A3: There are several themes to delve into, including courage in the face of fear, conflict resolution, and redemption. Can you envision the engaging classroom debates these themes could ignite?

Q4: How can ‘The Iron Man’ help develop students’ language skills?

A4: That’s a thought-provoking question! Studying ‘The Iron Man’ can enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and analytical skills through its compelling narrative and rich language. Can you foresee the linguistic progress your students could make?

Q5: How can I use ‘The Iron Man’ to teach descriptive writing?

A5: ‘The Iron Man’ is filled with vivid descriptions and uses a variety of literary devices, making it the perfect text to introduce and explore descriptive writing. Can you imagine the improvement in your students’ writing skills as they learn from Ted Hughes’s masterful storytelling?

Q6: What engaging activities can I conduct to consolidate learning after teaching ‘The Iron Man’?

A6: Several interactive options are available such as dramatic readings, creating artwork inspired by the story, or even hosting a mock debate based on the book’s themes. Can you sense the excitement these activities could generate in your classroom?

Remember, with ‘The Iron Man’ and our handy planning overview, you’re equipped to deliver engaging, enriching English Literature lessons. So why wait? Dive into this adventure today, and watch your classroom transform into a vibrant literary exploration hub!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.

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