Deconstructing poetry

It is important that students understand the metalanguage of poetry as this provides them with a language for deconstructing poetry and for articulating their interpretation and analysis of poems.

Following is an extensive list of poetic techniques. Teachers should consider the ability level of their students when deciding which techniques to focus on in the teaching of a poetry lesson or unit.

  • emotive language
  • imagery
  • hyperbole
  • narrative voice
  • persona
  • rhetorical questions

Students will also need to revise their understanding of alliteration, assonance and figurative language such as simile, metaphor and personification.

There are many comprehensive glossaries that can be accessed online. Some are listed below.

Activity 1: use the IDEA plan of action

The IDEA – identify, describe, explain and analyse – plan should be taught with modelled, guided and independent activities

Before reading – identify the context

  • contextualise the text – tell students where and when it was written
  • overview the events/characters and provide background knowledge
  • define unfamiliar terms.

While reading – describe the images and techniques

  • Visualise and imagine the events described in the text and identify the images created
  • Name the techniques/features
  • Describe the effect/emotion produced by the features

After reading and while rereading – explain and analyse

  • Explain how the features create the effects/emotions
  • Analyse the text by connecting and relating images, techniques and effects
  • Through the analysis identify the theme

For example, if teaching Rudyard Kipling’s poem from 'Mowgli’s Brothers', you can use the following link on an interactive whiteboard. The image of the tiger can help students to identify with the speaker’s voice and the dictionary enabled feature allows you to double-click on any word, and then click on definitions. This is a complex poem which needs to be gradually unpacked.

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