Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday: The Basics of Reading a Poem.

Basics of reading a poem:

1. Identify the speaker. What can you tell about the speaker? You may not know a name or gender or anything else, but identify the perspective: poems, at some level, will always have a consistent perspective if they have nothing else. The lines do not drop from the sky but from a perspective.

2. Identify the audience. Often the audience is the general reader, but just as often there is an audience for the speaker within the poem, a person or idea that the speaker addresses. Occasionally, as in Hughes, the audience will be white Americans or black Americans specifically. Determine which, and be clear and consistent.

3. Identify the subject. The subject of the poem is literal and clear. Be sure you recognize it and give it a name.

4. Identify the plot. In a poem, this task can be a little tricky, and the plot, or narrative, might not be very strong or complete, but something happens. What?

5. Identify the big structural components of the poem. Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? How do you know where the poem progresses from one part to another? There might be more than three parts. What does each part do, or what is its function?

6. When identifying structural components, explain how the poem works as it progresses from one part to another. If “God” appears in the first part, and “Lucifer” appears in the next, explain the connection, or how the first part moves into the second with contrast or opposition as one organizing principle.

7. Identify key small structural components. Are there patterns of line length, of repetition, of rhyme? What patterns do you notice at the “micro” level, and if they have an effect you can identify, make that effect explicit and explain.

8. Identify the theme. How does the poem’s concrete language suggest universal abstractions or social commentary? (Social commentary is a poet’s judgment of some aspect of society).

9. Identify the mood. The mood can shift as the poem progresses. A definition of mood and a great many words to describe mood can be found here. Explain how you know the mood using evidence from the poem.

10. Identify the tone. Tone is usually quite consistent. A definition of tone and many useful words for describing it are also here. Explain how you know the tone using evidence from the poem.

11. What part do musical devices (sound devices, like alliteration, assonance, consonance, repetition, internal and end rhyme, caesuras, end stops, line length, meter) play in accomplishing any of the poem's effects? Do not emphasize these without pointing out their effects!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday: Instructor rubric

Here is the "Instructor for a Day" rubric. Please LOOK at this rubric as you prepare.

Here is the list of poems and instructors and their order. I have updated this list to include the numbers for B-day, which had originally been written outside the margins of the flipchart page.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday: Daily rubric

Here is the daily rubric, which I will use to determine 20% of the quarter grade -- along with other daily grades that may come up from time to time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Poetry choice for absentees

If you want to claim a poem, email me. See the final list on the earlier post, and you may not teach a claimed poem. A-day claims are in orange, B-day claims are in red.


A-day made poem choices. All choices are shown here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday: Final 20

B-day has finalized the twenty poems by Hughes, and here is the list with each student's choice to teach. "Instructor for a Day" begins on November 20. A-day students may teach the same poem as B-day students.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday: Poetry choices

Here is the flipchart (in .pdf format) with B-day's choices on the first two pages highlighted in yellow. There are twenty of them. On the third page are A-day's choices. The poems both classes chose are highlighted in orange. A-day's other chosen poems are highlighted in yellow.

See, B-day picked twenty, A-day picked twenty, and there were six poems on both lists. Those six are in, no further debate. Twenty minus six equals fourteen. Half of fourteen is seven. Therefore, A-day picked, from its original twenty, seven more poems. Thirteen poems are now in the final list. Now B-day should, from its original twenty, select its seven favorites to complete the final twenty.


Here is today's handout on "Harlem: Whatever Happens to a Dream Deferred?" and "Dreams."

Friday, November 9, 2012


Here is B-day's list of titles from Langston Hughes. The twenty finals are highlighted in yellow.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Here is today's markup of Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son." Your homework is to determine which twenty poems you would like to study. Keep a thought on the calendar.