Hi, all. I have found a lot of success with this close reading activity I started using a few years ago called SPIT. It requires the students to read a poem at least 3 or 4 times before getting to theme. Its sequential nature builds in difficulty as the student builds knowledge and confidence with the poem. It encourages learning how to annotate before trying to get to meaning. Enjoy!
THE FOUR STEPS TO UNDERSTANDING POETRY (SPIT)
Write anything on the poem (or on a Post-It) that you want to remember to think about. You must read the poem actively if you want to understand it.
Step 1: SURVEY. After you number the lines of the poem, read the poem at least two times. Look up any words you don’t know in the dictionary.
Step 2: PARAPHRASE every stanza (or line, if it’s short) of the poem. Write what you think it means in your own words next to the poem. Write what is literally happening.
Step 3: IDENTIFY at least ten of these terms in the poem. Analyze what they mean. For example, find a metaphor and write a few notes explaining it. Be prepared to discuss what you found.
« point of view
« form (patterns)
« the meaning of the title
« use of punctuation
Step 4: THEME Write a one- or two-sentence theme for the poem that sums up its meaning. What is the overall message of the speaker? Remember that a theme is a sentence.
If you want, your sentence can start: “This poem is really about . . .” or “This speaker is saying that . . .”