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.


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.

FIGURATIVE 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. I explained this method in video format here: Using the Mnemonic Device SIFT to Analyze Poetry Video and PowerPoint Lesson. Let me know if this method works for you.

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my 37th birthday (I make 37 look like 32) and I decided to throw a one day 20% off sale in honor of my birthday. Enjoy!


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