Day 1: How do I read a poem?

Students really struggle with making meaning of poetry. With a lack of prior knowledge and limited analytical and critical thinking skills, poetry is a difficult concept. In keeping with the scaffolding of the gradual release model, I decided to break down the process and add one step with each chunk of the lesson.
1. Preview the text of the poem by looking at the title, picture, caption, or other text features. This is actually a school-wide strategy, but I really believe it has been helpful in reading prose, so why not give it a try?
2. Read the poem for literal language. Students will read the poem and then paraphrase every few lines to track the surface level meaning of the poem. Have students complete SOAPS on the text of the poem.
3. Read the poem for figurative meaning. Students reread the poem and look for possible figurative meaning including symbols, tone, and mood.
4. Annotate the poem while looking specifically for the figurative language. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the possible meaning of the vocabulary used.
5. Annotate the poem with a different color and look specifically at the sound devices. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the way it affects the poem.
6. Notice the form of the poem. What is it?
7. Review the title and your notes. What is likely to be the theme of the poem? How do you know?

Between each step, I will model and teach key vocabulary to help increase understanding. Also, by building on the steps of the lesson the students will be practicing each step regularly to help internalize the process.

So how did the first day go? With the first day, we were able to get through the preview of the text and both literal and figurative meanings of selected poems. This was done in more of a discussion manner with a few very general stems to get the students thinking. Without having to look for specific devices, students were able to get to a deeper meaning and justify their thoughts even if it was different from what I was looking for.

Next, we took notes over figurative language including simile, metaphor, paradox, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, pun, and idiom. Not only did the students take notes of the definitions, we looked specifically at examples of each and tried to verbalize the function of the device and the impact it had on meaning. Assessing this on the exit ticket shows that students can find meaning and back it with other parts of the poem if they know what the device is. However, if given a line and asked to identify the figurative language, they look for “like” and “as” to mark simile and the very obvious elements, but they do not recognize more complex examples or examples which are not in direct proximity. We will have time to work on this.

For tomorrow, I’m going to reteach figurative language in the context of the poem and then move into sound devices. Right now, I’m looking to model with “Rose in Concrete” which I had them complete individually. This will be great to go over the figurative language but I can also use it to model finding sound devices and tracking the effect they have on the text as well.

Ideas? Love to hear them.

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