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8th Grade Reading Lesson: Poetry Elements

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Lindsay Cross

on 16 October 2012

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Transcript of 8th Grade Reading Lesson: Poetry Elements

Poetry Elements Poetry is a kind of writing that has lines rather than sentences and stanzas rather than paragraphs.

*Side Note: The other kind of writing, with sentences and paragraphs, is called prose. The Poet's Toolbox
Here are some terms used frequently in discussing poetry:
Line- a row of words
Stanza- a group of lines
Rhyme- words with similar end sounds, within or at the ends of lines
Rhythm- the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in words
Speaker- the "voice" of the poem Tip #3 Notice how the poet paints a picture with words.

Poets often fill their poems with imagery. Imagery is vivid pictures that stick in the reader's mind. Sensory words are words poets use that appeal to any of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Moon Song
by Hilda Conkling

There is a star that runs very fast,
That goes pulling the moon,
Through the tops of poplars.
It is all in silver,
The tall star:
The moon rolls goldenly along
Out of breath.
Mr. Moon, does he make you hurry? Tip #1 Read a poem many times for better understanding.

The more you read a poem, the more you will understand and enjoy it. Some poems are so rich that you might get something new out of them every time you read them. In other words, a poem is something to swim in, not just a place to get your feet wet. Tip #2 Get a first impression, but don't cling to it.

When you encounter a poem, first, read it through from beginning to end to get the main idea. Don't just get hung up on little details or on a phrase or line you don't understand. Just get the big picture. What is the poem about? Then you can think about who the speaker is-the character who is "saying" the words of the poem. What is the mood of the poem?

Keep an open mind. You might find the poem has other meaning than the one you see at first glance. If you insist on only one meaning, you might miss much of the enjoyment the poem has to offer. Tip #4 Notice the "music" in the poem.

Most writers pay attention to how their words will sound to the reader. This "music" plays a much bigger role in poetry than in any other kind of writing. One thing many people first notice about a poem is whether the lines rhyme. Rhyme is one way in which poets create "music." Not all poems have lines that rhyme, but many do. A poem's rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming in a poem. The way to define the rhyme scheme is to mark each rhyme that comes at the end of a line with a letter of the alphabet, starting with a. Unmatched lines (lines that don't end in rhymes) get a letter, too. Let's use the following limerick as an example.

A mouse in her room woke Miss Doud,
Who was frightened and screamed very loud.
Then a happy thought hit her:
To scare off the critter,
She just sat up in bed and meowed.

The rhyme scheme in this limerick is __________. Tip #5: Enjoy the "sound effects" of the poem.

The best poets are masters of words, choosing just the right ones to convey their meaning. They can even play on the sounds of the words to create a mood beyond their simple definitions. Here are some of the "sound effects" poets use:

Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sound in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Klein could be clever or clueless, kind or cold, curmudgeonly or compassionate- all in the same day.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds within words or syllables.

Though the moon was a radiant bloom in the speckled vase of night, Carrie couldn't shake her gloom, try as she might. Figurative Language
Words used literally mean exactly what they say. Figurative language is a way of using words to mean something else than what they literally say. If you say "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse," what you really want is a big meal, not an actual horse. You're speaking figuratively.
Poets often aim for a fresh, original, even usual comparison using figures of speech. Three types of figurative language are commonly used. Tip #6 A simile compares two things using the word like or as.

One of the most common forms of figurative language is the simile. A simile compares two things by saying one is like the other. In some cases, writers us the word like, for example:

Life is like a birthday gift: you don't always get what you want, but you often get what you enjoy.

In other cases, a writer may make a comparison using the word as, for example:

The line at the Trocodero Theater was as long as a train at a crossing. Tip #7 A metaphor compares two thing by saying one thing is another.

A metaphor shows one thing to "be" another, as in this example:

Music is Joel's lifeblood; he must have a daily dose of rock, pop, and jazz.

Or an author might only suggest a comparison, as in this example:

Polly snagged the flying pumpkin out of the air and thundered down the court.

In the second example, a basketball is compared to a pumpkin, and the sound of Polly running is compared to thunder. Tip #8 Personification gives human qualities to a nonhuman thing.

Personification is a special form of figurative language in which a nonhuman thing is compared to a human being. Authors can personify anything from animals to ideas, or even objects.

Toby knew he couldn't put off his homework much longer. His history book sullenly waited on the corner of his desk and stared at him accusingly. Tip #9 Notice how figurative language affects the meaning of a poem.

As we've already seen, poets use figurative language for many reasons.

to create vivid pictures that stick in the reader's mind
to describe things more precisely or more originally
to have fun with language

When you read poem, think about what effect the figurative language has on you.
Why did the author choose to use certain words in a certain way? Tip #10 Limericks are comical poems.

A limerick is a five-lined poem that is usually humorous, with the last line often delivering a "punch line." It has a rhyme scheme of aabba. Limericks are examples of light verse, which just means playful poetry.

As we read the following poem pay attention to the words that rhyme.

The Old Man from Blackheath
Anonymous
There once was a man from Blackheath
Who sat on his set of false teeth.
Said he with a start,
"Oh, Lord, bless my heart!
I've bitten myself underneath!" Tip #11 Lyric poems tell about the speaker's feelings.

Lyric poems tell about feelings. You may recognie the word lyric, as in song lyrics. Lyric poems used to be sung to the music of a stringed instrument called a lyre. (A lyre looks like a very small harp.) Nowadays, lyric poems refer to any kind of poetry that focuses on the speaker's feelings. Types of lyric poems:
sonnet- a 14-line poem consisting of three groups of four lines and, to end, one group of two lines. The rhyme scheme is usually abab cdcd efefgg. Sonnets began in Italy, but the most famous composer of the form was the Englishman William Shakespeare.
ode- a complex and usually very serious poem that began in Greece and was sung to lyre music. Odes are often written for a special occasion. An ode to the Fourth of July, for instance might celebrate America. An ode to Oklahoma might celebrate the Cherokee Indian leader, Sequoyah. Poetry Forms

There are many other forms of poetry. Some have very strict rules, while others do not. Here are some more common forms:
Narrative Poetry- poetry that tells a story
Free verse- poetry that does not follow a rhythmic pattern
Epics- long poems that tell fantastic tales of heroism Tip #12 Evaluate the poem and all its parts.

As you continue to read a poem, you should be able to come to a few conclusions. As you've learned in this lesson, poets use figurative language to communicate their themes and main ideas. It's your job to decide how successfully the poet does this. This is called evaluation. Evaluation means to form a judgment. Tip#1 Read a poem many times for better understanding.
Tip#2 Get a first impression, but don't cling to it.
Tip#3 Notice how the poet paints a picture with words.
Tip#4 Notice the "music" in the poem.
Tip#5 Enjoy the "sound effects" of the poem.
Tip#6 A simile compares two things using the word like or as.
Tip#7 A metaphor compares two thing by saying one thing is another.
Tip#8 Personification gives human qualities to a nonhuman thing.
Tip#9 Notice how figurative language affects the meaning of a poem.
Tip#10 Limericks are comical poems.
Tip#11 Lyric poems tell about the speaker's feelings.
Tip#12 Evaluate the poem and all its parts.
Consonance is the repetition of two or more consonants with different vowel sound in between.

Bill could play ball for the Bulls, but he badly wants to bowl.

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound like what they signify.

splash, clank, buzz, woof, meow, bam, honk, etc. elegy- a poem that mourns and remembers the dead. Elegies also came from the ancient Greeks, and nowadays are generally reserved for funerals. Walt Whitman's poem "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," is an elegy that mourns the death of Abraham Lincoln.
ballad- a poem that tells a story of love, tradegy, or heroism. Like other lyrical poems, ballads originally were written to be sung. Some poets have written ballads that are meant to be read but still have musical quality to them. Ballads usually feature a refrain, which is a repeated phrase or idea (like the chorus of a song). For example, think about the poem "Mayflies." The poet says the mayflies are "Like light bursting from the place/ Where goodness springs." The poet probably wants readers to feel good about mayflies by comparing them to light. This is especially true because the setting of the first stanza of the poem is nighttime. At night, light is helpful and often necessary.


Now ask yourself whether the use of figurative language works, or makes sense. The poet uses a metaphor to compare mayflies to "kind words/ Too tardily said." What does he mean by that? Kind words, like light, are a good thing, right? But they're only meaningful when spoken at the right time, such as when someone is there to hear them. "Too tardily said" means they're too late.

Again the setting is important. In the second stanza, the setting is morning, when people are just waking. By the time anyone is up to see mayflies, they've already died. This metaphor helps show that mayflies don't live long enough for us to appreciate their beauty. The poem does its best to capture them before they're gone. Maybe the words he compares the mayflies to are also like the words of the poem: too late. How clever is that?
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