Time spent on class evaluation of sample thesis paragraphs or past student samples is essential to really demonstrate how to lift a script by 'close' attention to 'how' it is written and 'why'. Application of writing skills always works better than just telling them what to do and how to do it via a handout.
Tracking down someone who can give a really effective reading of the poems is wonderful as well as no matter how great a teacher you are, they sometimes need a different 'voice' and for Owen in particular, a male voice, to really engage with his poetry. One of the best renditions of 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' can be found at the site below. Hope you find these resources useful.
How to rise above commentary and achieve real analysis?
This is a real problem with some students who do not have a strong command of language. They can engage with the frontline experience but they cannot analytically express their understanding of the poems within a sound thesis. Strong, well-expressed commentary is often presented but without a personal voice or argument.
One way I have used to try and get around this with weaker students, is to focus on snippets from Owen's letters home. They reveal the man's voice rather than that of the poet. The following site offers a wonderful way to introduce or recap the emotional juxtaposition of wartime experience. Ralph Fiennes reading of this letter extract triggers strong student empathy.
Another way is to tackle language head on early in the module. Many teachers go straight to the poems, hoping students will then learn how to communicate everything properly in a final few lessons focused on thesis writing. Meta-language activities throughout each module will develop the sophistication of their writing style. It is not just knowledge of the content that is important, but rather the skill with which they articulate deep understanding and personal evaluation. Their language needs to use loaded terms such as anonymity, ignominy, vulnerability and butchery to add depth and analytical weight to a response if used appropriately. Owen's poetic purpose also needs to be explicitly conveyed with terms like assert, challenge, censure and denounce.
There is a wonderful range of resources available online for teaching this Module B text but I have found that students still struggle to articulate their knowledge and understanding of the prescribed poems for Close Study. Many students demonstrate a strong knowledge of key ideas and can comment well on the techniques used and their impact on the reader. What is often missing however is a real grasp of what makes his poetry "distinctive'. This module, like most of the others for both courses, remains fixed on language as a communicative tool. Students have to develop a real understanding for 'why' he felt compelled to expose the 'pity' of war in all its horror. Comprehension of his professed purpose as a poet of war is needed; students able to express why it is that Owen's mastery of explicit diction and sensory imagery and anti-war voice remains distinctively strident so many years after it was written.