Time for Poetry: Analytical Response to Poetry, Day 1

mending wall pic

Moving along in my reflection on my poetry research project, a new thing that I’m trying for the spring semester, today’s post will be about beginning the work with the poem.

I wanted to make sure that students were actually dealing with the text, carefully reading before forming opinions or possible arguments about the poem. I asked them to write a response to their reading of the text. These responses could be informal; I mainly wanted records of their thinking.

For Day 1 of working with our chosen poems, I asked each student to bring a copy of his or her poem to class.

I then signed up for the computer lab. (Because that’s what you have to do when your school doesn’t have a lot of technology. Or a class set of Chromebooks **sniff**).

When we got to the lab, I gave my students the following:


  1. Annotate your poem for literary devices (We have been practicing this all year, so they don’t need much more instruction than this on this particular step).
  2. While you are annotating, Log in to your computer and then to your Google Drive account.  (Always give students something to do while the computer is turning on/logging on/causing general technological mayhem.)
  3. Create a folder entitled Last Name, First Name Poetry Essay (Smith, John Poetry Essay)
  4. Share the folder with me.
  5. In the folder, create a new document. (This step became tricky, as I had many students that created documents in places other than this folder.)
  6. Title the document “First Response to Poem”
  7. For an example of how to set up your document, go to http://goo.gl/SPfDir
  8. Definitions: In the document, first define all unknown words.
  9. Content: write a 2-4 sentence summary of the poem’s literal content.  Do not interpret yet. Just paraphrase.  (I’ve come to see that most misinterpretations of poetry start here–the literal level.)
  10. Strategies:  using your annotation of the poem, make a list of literary devices that seem important.  Name the literary device or strategy and give examples.
  11. Other Observations:  list any other observations about the poem that seem important to you.
  12. Questions:  what do you still wonder about after reading the poem?

Sample Responses

Example of a Content Summary of “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes (Step 9):

Example of Content Summary Weary Blues

Example of a List of Strategies for “The Second Coming” by Yeats (Step 10):

The Second Coming Strategies

Example of Observations and Questions from “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale (Steps 11 and 12):


What I Will Do Differently Next Year:

  • I wasn’t really prepared for how confusing Google Drive seemed to be for some students.  Next year I plan to take more time at the beginning of the year to set expectations and teach the necessary skill so that students can use this powerful tool with ease.
  • I will create a more complete model for this response.  I modeled a couple of the steps on the directions I gave students, but I would like to create a more thorough example.
  • I will give them more than one class period to do this assignment. What I would like to do in the future is give students about 30 minutes just in my classroom, sans technology, to read and annotate their poems.  I felt like they didn’t take enough with this step, but I think it was because I didn’t make the time.

If anyone out there has done formal essays (especially involving secondary sources) with poetry, I’d love to hear about it!  Stay tuned for a description of our Day 2 responses!


  1. I use google folders in my room.

    At the beginning of the year create a folder in your drive titled whatever period that is.

    Have students complete the following;,

    1. Create a folder titled, Period number, first and last name. Example: 4 John Smith
    2. Share that folder with teacher. I have them skip the email part because I don’t want the emails, but to each his own.
    3. Now anytime they put anything in that folder I will get it.

    Makes things so much easier! Now every time I have a new project, they just create folders in that shared folder and I always get it.


    1. Thanks Jade! After I saw how powerful Google Drive could be with this assignment, I think I will use it a ton more next year. I was thinking of doing something just like what you described–so thanks!


      1. I use Google for everything! Now the kids understand how to use it which helps out so much more. They love the fact it automatically saves. I use forms for quizzes, speed dating activities, syllabus agreement, etc. Next year I want to start using Google Hangout for conferencing with my kiddos. Also, I will have them start revising and editing by students sharing a copy of their work and having them utilize comments for revise and edit. That way they learn how to collaborate digitally.


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