The Secret Cheat Sheet That Will Unlock Poetry For Your Students

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all.

Perhaps you’ve come across this beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson. It’s become a familiar companion in my classroom, especially as we dive into our exciting poetry unit.

I make it a delightful habit to introduce poems throughout our weekly lessons, and my students absolutely adore the concept of exploring these verses. Yet, when we reach the point of delving into poetry analysis and annotation, the enchantment weaved by the poems somehow dissipates.

poetry analysis

A lot of students can feel pretty overwhelmed because, honestly, nobody really took the time to show them the ropes of poetry analysis before. It’s like they’ve been handed this puzzle without the picture on the box. That’s where I step in.

I like to remind them that diving into a poem isn’t about decoding a secret message, but more like unraveling the layers of meaning the poet wove into it. You know, like discovering the hidden gems in a treasure hunt. I share with them my trusty ‘magic guide,’ a cheat sheet that breaks down poetry analysis and annotation into a breeze.

Here’s how we kick things off: we dive right into annotation. I’ve got this nifty set of 9 super-simple steps that even a unicorn could follow. And guess what? I’m spilling the secrets right here, just for you.

1. Start off by reading the poem once. If any questions pop into your mind, jot them down – it’s like having a conversation with the poem!

2. Circle any words that throw you a curveball, and don’t hesitate to peek at the dictionary. Write those snazzy definitions right on the poem – you’re building your very own word map.

3. Time to decode the rhyme! Give each end rhyme a shiny new letter – your secret code to unraveling the rhyme scheme.

4. Spot any figurative language waltzing around? Note them down and think about why the poet chose these fancy moves. It’s like discovering the hidden meanings behind their poetic dance.

5. Catch those sound tricks – like alliteration, assonance, and consonance – that add rhythm to the poem. How do these delightful sounds shape the poem’s groove?

6. See something playing on repeat? Explore why the poet hit the rewind button. It’s like finding the heartbeat of the poem.

7. Zoom in on those punctuation marks – they’re like the actors in the poem’s play. Do they spill the beans on the speaker’s mood? Drama alert!

8. Circle those dazzling words that steal the spotlight. What do they remind you of? And hey, what do they say about the poet’s feelings toward the topic?

9. Give the poem another twirl. If it’s still got you doing the puzzled face, no worries! Go ahead and replay the annotation journey. Sometimes, the magic takes more than one spin!

Let’s dive into analyzing poetry with ease! Your students will fill in 11 fields that cover all aspects of the poem: title, structure, setting, keywords, devices, tone, mood, idea, themes, message, and your opinion. Our secret cheat sheet makes the process a breeze, guiding them through each category. Check out a student’s real example below!

poetry analysis worksheet

Ready to grab the cheat sheet for your class? Fantastic! Just drop me your email, and guess what? I’ll toss in an extra analysis and annotation worksheet for William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus.” Hit that button now and snag your free cheat sheet!

P.S.: Guess what? I’ve got you covered even more! The Invictus poem worksheet comes with suggested answers ready to roll. No waiting needed – you can use it pronto in your class.

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