Analyzing Poetry

If your students are anything like mine a lot of them don't like poetry. Many of my students get confused by poetry and they give up too easily. Unfortunately there is always a poem on our state exam. After many years of dealing with kids saying "I hate poetry" I decided to think outside the box. I love mnemonic devices and I use them quite often in my classroom. For poetry I use the mnemonic device SIFT.

Summary (2-3 sentences describing what the poem is about)
Imagery (Pictures formed in your mind from the author’s words)
Figurative Language (Other literary devices used such as metaphor, simile, etc.)
Theme (What is the author’s message to the reader?)

This week in my classroom I'm having students work in small groups (2-4) analyzing different poems using the SIFT method. First I model for them with this poem that I found online.

Teenagers  

One day they disappear
into their rooms.
Doors and lips shut
and we become strangers
in our own home.

I pace the hall, hear whispers,
a code I knew but can't remember,
mouthed by mouths I taught to speak.

Years later the door opens.
I see faces I once held,
open as sunflowers in my hands.  I see
familiar skin now stretched on long bodies
that move past me
glowing almost like pearls.

  — Pat Mora

SUMMARY: A parent is talking about her teenaged children and thinking about what life used to be like when they were small children. She talks about how much the teenagers have changed over the years and she wishes that she was as class as they used to be.

IMAGERY: When I was reading the poem I could picture in my mind a mother standing outside of a closed door. I also could envision the teenagers inside of their rooms on the telephone with their friends.

FIGUARITVE LANGUAGE: Flashback – The mother is remembering her teenaged children when they were smaller. (Second stanza “mouthed by mouths I taught to speak”)
Simile – In the third stanza – “I see faces I once held, / open as sunflowers in my hands,” The mother is comparing her child’s face to an open sunflower.

THEME: Children grow up and often distance themselves from their parents during their teenaged years.

After I model for them they get into their groups and analyze their poetry. I'll give them chart paper and markers so we can display their work. Sometimes I'll have each group present their poems. Let me know if this method works for you.


12 comments:

  1. Hi Tammy!
    I love the poem you included here! I also like your quick analysis method. I've been using my poetry task cards as well to help students take small bites out of poetry, and that has been incredibly helpful. Love the post!
    ~Julie

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  2. Julie,

    Thank you. I used your task cards last year but lately I've been using a lot of mnemonic devices and they really help the kids. The poem I used here is just a poem I randomly found online that I thought the kids could relate to. I'm going to try to blog more often.

    Tammy

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  3. Nice work and a good strategy. There is so much involved with poetry. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Thank you. I love poetry. It's very hard for a lot of my students. You're welcome :-)

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  5. Love that poem, Tammy. Actually, I'm living that poem right now. Three teens, waiting for the pearls to emerge! Your blog looks awesome, btw.

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  6. Great strategy! I wish I had seen this when I first started looking at poetry with my students last month! Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Nice! you've helped me on my presentation. Thank you!

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  8. I'm doing prep for a literature exam I'm sitting in a few weeks and came across a question asking what literary device is used in lines 6-7 and I'm coming up empty handed, perhaps you could help me?

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