Step-by-Step to Effective Poetry Analysis

Are you looking for ways to help students analyze poetry effectively? This post will share step-by-step ideas to help your students with poetry analysis. When you are finished, they will be analyzing poetry like rock stars!

1. Choose a Poem

Have students read and choose meaningful poetry.  Classic poets like Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost are always excellent choices!  This link will take you to Classic Poetry:   http://www.emule.com/poetry/

2. Read the Poem

Read the poem at least three times. Have students read it silently, read it to your students, then have the class read it together.

3. Make a Copy

Print copies of the poem for students to use.

4. Make it Fun

Give students colorful highlighters and pens to mark the poem.  Kids love different colors! Also, turn it into a detective game! Give your students magnifying glasses while they examine a poem!

5. Take Notes

Write in the margins, highlight important words, phrases, or repeated/ patterns of words, circle difficult or confusing words, make a list of all the verbs, draw lines to make any connections throughout the poem, and highlight poetic devices. Keep in mind that all words in a poem have some kind of meaning to poets.  They choose words very strategically to not only include evident meaning but also implied meaning. Here is a list of ideas for analyzing poetry.

Look at the Title

Read the title and discuss it with your students. Does it tell you anything? Does it mention the subject? Is the title obvious to the poem? Is there a tone of the title? Does it show historical significance?


Is the poet from a specific time period? Can you guess his/her age at the time of writing the poem? Is the poet male or female? Do you know the career of the poet? (politics, religion, music) Does the poet only write about specific subjects or genres? (historical, cultural, humorous)


Does the poem suggest a time period or specific place? Is there a time frame? Is there an indication of a particular season or month?

Type of Poem

What is the type of poem? (narrative, limerick, haiku, epic, etc) Is it fiction or nonfiction?


What is the subject? Does the subject suggest meaning to the poem? What is your initial thought on the subject?


What is the gender of the speaker? (Male, female, not sure) What is the speaker’s point of view? (First person uses I, my, mine and Second person uses he, she, you) Does the speaker have an opinion of the subject?


Look for a change in the poem. Does the subject change? Are feelings changing? Does time change? (positive to negative, beginning to end, young to old, past to present, simple to complex, compare and contrast)

Poetic Devices

Each of these poetic devices may be placed in the poem.  The poet puts it there for a reason.  Does your poem have any of them?

ALLITERATION–  Repeating the beginning sound of words.  Ex. Slimy slugs slither slowly on the sidewalk.

ALLUSION–  Refers to something without mentioning it directly.  Ex.  You are a regular Einstein.

IMAGERY–  Creating a picture with words.  Ex. The thick fuzzy coat was a blessing in the winter blizzard.

METAPHOR–  Comparing two unlike things.  Ex.  A good laugh is sunshine in a house.

MOOD–  The atmosphere that creates an emotional situation.  Ex.  Depressing, cheery, mysterious, scary

ONOMATOPOEIA–  Sound words.  Ex.  Bang, ding, pop!  Is it located at the end of each line?

PERSONIFICATION–  Giving an object or thing a human quality.  Ex.  The wind whistled its happy tune.

REPETITION–  Repeating words or phrases.  Ex.  Leaving my friends, leaving my home leaving my room, leaving my memories

RHYME– Similar ending sounds.  Ex.  School, tool, rule  or approximate rhyme:  least/ freeze

RHYME SCHEME– Showing a pattern of rhyme.

Ex. Roses are red    A

Violets are blue   B

Sugar is sweet    C

And so are you.   B

RHYTHM–  (musical quality) Does is meander, march, dance, or is it a monologue?  Does it increase or decrease in speed?

SENSES– See, hear, smell, touch, taste.  Does the poem concentrate on just one sense?  Is it a pleasing sense or displeasing?

SIMILE–  Comparing two unlike things using like or as.  Ex.  She was as pale as a lump of sugar.

THEME–  An idea that is continuously developed.  The heart of the poem.  The message.    Ex.  Love, liberty, patriotism.

TONE–  The attitude of the poet to the subject.  Ex.  Playful, serious, teasing, sorrowful?


Look at the punctuation.  Does it show meaning or change the meaning?

6. Go Back

Look at the title again. Does it change your thinking? Look at the first and last lines. Does it provoke emotion or a lasting thought?

7. Interpretation and Written Analysis

Keep in mind that there may be multiple meanings of a poem and you may have a different thought than others.

  1. Restate the poem in your own words.
  2. Think outside the box.  Look for both evident and implied meanings.
  3. Explain any of the above steps.
  4. Were you emotionally moved or touched by the poem?
  5. Do you have an opinion?
  6. Do any words stick in your mind?
  7. Did this poem or poet make an impression?  Why?

I hope you found some great ideas for poetry analysis! Do you want to make poetry analysis REALLY fun?  Use lyrics!  Yes, songs and raps are forms of poetry!  Students love to listen to the songs and analyze them.  They will beg you for more!  Grab this free lyrical analysis form! Or if you want lyrics already done for you, click on the second box!



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