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April 27, 2017

SLAM Poetry: A Poem Analysis Tool

By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    My students recently responded with jeers and cheers in nearly equal parts after I introduced a new unit on poetry analysis. From elation to frustration, the study of poetry truly brings out my students’ emotions. Since I know it requires additional work on my part to win over the hearts and minds of the poetry objectors, I listen carefully to their reasons for disliking poetry. Of the concerns I’m told, the chief complaint among students is that far too many poems don’t make sense when students read them. I acknowledge these feelings, but I gently encourage the detractors to keep an open mind, and, with a bit of thoughtful work, they can uncover deep messages and ideas in the poems they read.

    In response to my students’ concerns, I developed the SLAM poetry analysis tool to guide their thinking as they work to unravel a poem’s meaning and significance.  Students use the acronym SLAM to analyze various aspects of a poem. To SLAM a poem my students think about the poem’s structure, language, affect, and meaning. The SLAM tool is versatile and can be used to explore the meaning of many different types of poems. Systematically analyzing poems in this way has helped to demystify the process for students.

    SLAM Poems: A How-to Guide

    To start, students slowly and carefully read the title and text of the poem.  I encourage students to read the poem out loud multiple times in order to infuse life into the static words on the page. It is important students take their time on this step. Some students try to rush through or ignore this part of the process, but I urge them not to because it is a vital first step that makes the analysis that follows possible.

    Next, students use the “SLAM Poems Like a Pro” guide to unpack or analyze the poem’s meaning. With a pen in hand, students annotate the poem by underlining and circling key words or phrases that relate to the poem’s structure, language, affect, and meaning.

    I provide students with the following prompts to think about these aspects of the poem. Click here or on the image below to download your own SLAM poetry prompt.

    • Structure: How are the line breaks structured? How are the stanzas organized? Is there punctuation? What does it look like? How does the structure affect the meaning of the poem?
    • Language: Is there figurative language present (simile, metaphor, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification)? Are there sound devices present (rhythm, rhyme, repetition)? Is there sensory language in the poem?
    • Affect: Mood — How are you affected by the poem? What emotions are evoked because of the language being used? Tone — How does the author feel or want you to be affected when you read the poem?
    • Meaning: What is the subject of the poem? Who or what is the poem mainly about? Does the poet use symbolism in the poem? What is the deeper meaning of the symbols used in the poem? What is the central message or theme of the poem?  Why is the title important and how does it set the context of the poem?

    Students then code the margins of the poem with the SLAM letters to identify where and how the poet uses or develops a component in the poem.  Since poets use these features differently (or not at all) I remind students to play close attention to the features that are used and the different ways they contribute to the poem’s meaning. 


    My students tell me this approach makes the process of interpreting poetry clear and easy. By focusing on one component at a time, analyzing poems using the SLAM method beaks the process up for students and makes it more manageable for them.

    Additional Resources

    You will find additional ideas and strategies to teach students to analyze poetry in the links below. I would also love to hear the different ways you inspire reluctant students to appreciate poetry.

    Strategies to Read and Analyze Poetry

    How to Read a Poem

    Teaching Literary Elements Using Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko

    And on a parallel note, my fellow blogger Genia Connell, takes her third graders on a deep dive into poetry with "Dig Deeper Into Poetry With Close Reads."

     

    My students recently responded with jeers and cheers in nearly equal parts after I introduced a new unit on poetry analysis. From elation to frustration, the study of poetry truly brings out my students’ emotions. Since I know it requires additional work on my part to win over the hearts and minds of the poetry objectors, I listen carefully to their reasons for disliking poetry. Of the concerns I’m told, the chief complaint among students is that far too many poems don’t make sense when students read them. I acknowledge these feelings, but I gently encourage the detractors to keep an open mind, and, with a bit of thoughtful work, they can uncover deep messages and ideas in the poems they read.

    In response to my students’ concerns, I developed the SLAM poetry analysis tool to guide their thinking as they work to unravel a poem’s meaning and significance.  Students use the acronym SLAM to analyze various aspects of a poem. To SLAM a poem my students think about the poem’s structure, language, affect, and meaning. The SLAM tool is versatile and can be used to explore the meaning of many different types of poems. Systematically analyzing poems in this way has helped to demystify the process for students.

    SLAM Poems: A How-to Guide

    To start, students slowly and carefully read the title and text of the poem.  I encourage students to read the poem out loud multiple times in order to infuse life into the static words on the page. It is important students take their time on this step. Some students try to rush through or ignore this part of the process, but I urge them not to because it is a vital first step that makes the analysis that follows possible.

    Next, students use the “SLAM Poems Like a Pro” guide to unpack or analyze the poem’s meaning. With a pen in hand, students annotate the poem by underlining and circling key words or phrases that relate to the poem’s structure, language, affect, and meaning.

    I provide students with the following prompts to think about these aspects of the poem. Click here or on the image below to download your own SLAM poetry prompt.

    • Structure: How are the line breaks structured? How are the stanzas organized? Is there punctuation? What does it look like? How does the structure affect the meaning of the poem?
    • Language: Is there figurative language present (simile, metaphor, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification)? Are there sound devices present (rhythm, rhyme, repetition)? Is there sensory language in the poem?
    • Affect: Mood — How are you affected by the poem? What emotions are evoked because of the language being used? Tone — How does the author feel or want you to be affected when you read the poem?
    • Meaning: What is the subject of the poem? Who or what is the poem mainly about? Does the poet use symbolism in the poem? What is the deeper meaning of the symbols used in the poem? What is the central message or theme of the poem?  Why is the title important and how does it set the context of the poem?

    Students then code the margins of the poem with the SLAM letters to identify where and how the poet uses or develops a component in the poem.  Since poets use these features differently (or not at all) I remind students to play close attention to the features that are used and the different ways they contribute to the poem’s meaning. 


    My students tell me this approach makes the process of interpreting poetry clear and easy. By focusing on one component at a time, analyzing poems using the SLAM method beaks the process up for students and makes it more manageable for them.

    Additional Resources

    You will find additional ideas and strategies to teach students to analyze poetry in the links below. I would also love to hear the different ways you inspire reluctant students to appreciate poetry.

    Strategies to Read and Analyze Poetry

    How to Read a Poem

    Teaching Literary Elements Using Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko

    And on a parallel note, my fellow blogger Genia Connell, takes her third graders on a deep dive into poetry with "Dig Deeper Into Poetry With Close Reads."

     

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