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4 NSS Poems and Songs Workshop Responding to Poetry Name: _________________________ Class: ______ ( ) Date: __________________ Day: ______________

Understanding a poem

When you read a poem, trust your own sense ( meant to convey images ( emotions or insights.

) including your sense of humour. Some

poems are just for fun. All you have to do is to relax and enjoy them. Other poems are like paintings, ), perhaps in unusual ways. Still other poems tell stories or share

No matter what type of poem you encounter, active reading strategies will help you get most out of it. Poems are more compact than other kinds o writing. They may present images, emotions, and insights, but they dont always explain. So when you read poetry, its up to you to make connections ( ). Your eyes and your ears, your mind and your imagination all can help as you explore the craft of poetry. ~ extracted from Daybook of Critical Reading and Writing for Grade 6 After reading the extract, what have you learnt about poems and reading poems? Are the following statements True or False? T or F? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Poems are written to entertain people only. Poems are composed of difficult words. Poets can tell stories through poems. Imagery is an important component of poems. There is a definitive meaning for each poem. The way you read a poem and how you feel could be different from what someone else sees and feels. As an active reader, you should make connections with a poem while reading it.

The notion active reading is mentioned. Can you think of any examples of active reading strategies? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What should you focus on when we are analyzing a poem?

Match the questions with the headings.
What does the poem say? How does the poem convey the meaning? What does the poem mean? What do you think is relevant beyond the text of the poem?

1) Basic Facts:

What happened? Who is speaking? To whom? Where & when? What's the sequence of events? What do we know about the speaker or other characters? What kind of poem is it? Narrative, lyric, dramatic monologue ?

2) Themes & Moral Issues:

What's your response? What's the mood/atmosphere? What emotions does it stir up in you? What is the poem trying to suggest? What's the speaker's point of view / attitude / tone (feelings) about....? What questions does the poem raise? Is the speaker right? Why or why not? Would you think / act similarly to the speaker or another character? Could you? Should you? Will you? How can you do so?

3) Rhetorical Devices:

By what means (devices) does the poem create a mood, achieve emphasis, convey the feeling of the narrator, communicate an idea, etc.? What's effective and what isn't? What details in the poem support your interpretation / response to it?

4) Context:

An actual historical event described in the poem? The author of the poem? His/her background? Other poems by the same author?

Related poems or other literature / art that may have influenced or been influenced by the poem? Zeitgeist: spirit of the time the poem was written: values, norms, attitudes, expectations, hopes of writers & of the general public? Other poems that you personally feel deserve to be compared with the poem (e.g. similar theme but contrasting attitudes reflecting different times or viewpoints; or similar style & attitude but different genre)?

More on Rhetorical Devices / Poetic Techniques / Figures of Speech

In the famous poem Fog, Carl Sandburg describes fog that comes in on little cat feet. Sandburgs figure of speech, comparing fog to a cat, suggests much more than it says. By exploring figures of speech, e.g. similes, metaphors and personification, you can deepen your understanding of a poem. To explore the poetic techniques used in a poem, you might use the following steps:

Fog The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. Carl Sandburg


Question Ask yourself, for instance, How is fog like a cat?.


Picture In your mind, picture both fog and a cat. You might notice that both move silently and look soft. You might feel that both can be beautiful, mysterious, or even menacing.


Reflect Think about your responses. You might decide that the figure of speech suggests that fog is soft and mysterious. You could check your interpretation by reading the rest of the poem.

Figurative language: expressions not to be taken literally


A simile is a direct comparison between two things. A sentence that contains a simile must use the word like or the phrase as as or as if. e.g. My father is as big as a giant. (= He is very big and scary.) My sister eats like a bird. (= She eats very little.) He sang as if he were a songbird. (= He sang very well.) Which of the following is a simile? (1) My classmate whispered like she was watched by a teacher. ( (2) My sister whispered like the gentle wind. ( Your try: (1) My English teacher is like ________________________________________________________________. (2) Juno dances as if _______________________________________________________________________. (3) Our books are as heavy as ______________________________________________________________. (4) My mother is ____________________________________________________________________________. ) )


A metaphor is an indirect comparison between two things. It says that something is something else. e.g. My brother is a clown. (= He likes to joke around. He is not a clown by profession. He just behaves like one.) Which of the following is a metaphor? (1) My computer is the best thing in my life! ( (2) My school is a prison! ( Your try: (1) My Chinese teacher is __________________________________________________________________. (2) Life is ___________________________________________________________________________________. (3) Our school is ____________________________________________________________________________. (4) Learning a foreign language is _________________________________________________________. ) )


Personification is used when a human characteristic is given to something non-human. e.g. The bowl of ice-cream called out to me! (= The bowl of ice-cream looked so good that the writer felt it was inviting him to eat it.)

Which of the following is a personification? (1) The tree branches danced in the wind. ( (2) The dancer danced wildly in the wind. ( Your try: (1) Time ___________________________________________________________________________________. (2) My cat is my ____________________________________________________________________________. (3) Books can ______________________________________________________________________________. (4) Diamonds are womens _________________________________________________________________. ) )

Practice: Underline the lines where personification is employed.

Stars, bring me up with you Bring me to the place you sleep. How do you do it? Bring me to your home. Bring your thoughts to me. Share them with me.

By Alex

Imagery: sensory details

It is important to remember that human beings learn about the world through using the five senses. They are our primary source of knowledge about the world. Therefore, writing which incorporates vivid, sensory detail is more likely to engage the reader. A good poet can make sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste work together to strengthen his writing. Practice: Go back to your childhood and draw images in your mind. Think about all of your senses. What are things you touched, smelled, tasted, heard, saw? Add the headings.






Practice: Analyze the sensory details of the poem Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver. Complete the table.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better. Mary Oliver
Sight Sound Smell Touch Taste

Sound effects: rhyming pattern & foregrounding (emphasis)

1. Rhyming Patterns: Rhymes & Rhyme Scheme
The most common characteristic of a verse is rhyme. A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. Remember, poetry is written to be seen and heard, so be sure to read poetry aloud. Listen to the rhymes at the ends of the lines, and listen for echoes within the poem. Rhymes are NOT simply based on spelling. You have to read it aloud to hear the similarity. Practice: Circle the following words that rhyme with call. fall bald chalk ball crawl bold Paul law mail saw mall tale rainfall not

Listening Practice: Listen to the poem at Circle the rhymes.

Monday's child is fair of face

Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go, Friday's child is loving and giving, Saturday's child works hard for its living, And a child that's born on the Sabbath day Is fair and wise and good and gay. Useful websites for listening to poetry:

A rhyme scheme is a regular pattern of rhyme, one that is consistent throughout the extent of the poem. Poems that rhyme without any regular pattern can be called rhyming poems, but only those poems with an unvarying pattern to their rhymes can be said to have a rhyme scheme.

Rhyme schemes are labeled according to their rhyme sounds. Every rhyme sound is given its own letter of the alphabet (in the lower case) to distinguish it from the other rhyme sounds that may appear in the poem. For example, the first rhyme sound of a poem is designated as a. Every time that rhyme sound appears in the poem, no matter where it is found, it is called a. The second rhyme sound to appear in the poem is designated b. Every other time that rhyme sound appears in the poem, no matter where it is found, it is called b. The third rhyme sound to appear would be c, the fourth d, and so on. The following short poem illustrates the labeling of a rhyme scheme. There once was a big brown cat That liked to eat a lot of mice. He got all round and fat Because they tasted so nice. a b a b

Practice: Read the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson and work out the rhyme scheme. Put the letters in the brackets.

A Good Boy
I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day, I never said an ugly word, but smiled and stuck to play. And now at last the sun is going down behind the wood, And I am very happy, for I know that I've been good. My bed is waiting cool and fresh, with linen smooth and fair, And I must be off to sleepsin-by, and not forget my prayer. I know that, till to-morrow I shall see the sun arise, No ugly dream shall fright my mind, no ugly sight my eyes. But slumber hold me tightly till I waken in the dawn, And hear the thrushes singing in the lilacs round the lawn. Robert Louis Stevenson ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )


Rhythm: meters & accents

Rhythm is a musical quality produced by the repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables. Rhythm occurs in all forms of language, both written and spoken, but is particularly important in poetry.

How to analyze the rhythm of a poem? Is there a dominant rhythm? Is it conversational, like a scene from a drama? Is it a droning monologue, as found in a journal, diary, or confessional? Does the rhythm relate to the prevalent theme of the poem? Does the rhythm increase or decrease in speed? Why?


Assonance refers to the similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words. Poets sometimes repeat vowel sounds to reinforce the meaning of the words and to create moods. e.g. And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride. ~ Edgar Allan Poe, Annabel Lee Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came.


Alliteration is formed when different words repeat the same beginning consonant sound. There should be at least two repetitions in a row. Tongue twisters often contain a lot of alliterations. e.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A big black bug bit a big black bear, which made the big black bear bleed.

Practice: Complete the sentences below so that they contain alliterations. Then underline the consonant sounds being repeated. (1) (2) Lois _______________________ her _____________________ cat. My _______________________ Ben broke the _____________________ brick with his bare hands!


She __________________ sea shells by the sea shore. The __________________ she sells are surely seashells. So if _________________ sells shells on the seashore, I'm __________________ she sells seashore shells.

Practice: Underline the alliterations in the following tongue twister. Read it with intonation to feel its musicality. Betty Botter had some butter, "But," she said, "this butter's bitter. If I bake this bitter butter, it would make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter-that would make my batter better." So she bought a bit of butter, better than her bitter butter, and she baked it in her batter, and the batter was not bitter. So 'twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

Practice: Shel Silverstein provides numerous alliteration and assonance examples in his serious poem Cloony the Clown. Highlight these examples using pens of different colours. Note: Silverstein finishes this poem with an ironic couplet, a proper ending to an ironic poem. The focus in the first line of the ending couplet is on world; the focus in the second line is on Clooney himself, highlighting the contrast between what the world expects out of Clooney and what Clooney is able to provide.

Cloony The Clown

I'll tell you the story of Cloony the Clown Who worked in a circus that came through town. His shoes were too big and his hat was too small, But he just wasn't, just wasn't funny at all. He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes, He had a green dog and a thousand balloons. He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall, But he just wasn't, just wasn't funny at all. And every time he did a trick, Everyone felt a little sick. And every time he told a joke, Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke. And every time he lost a shoe,

Everyone looked awfully blue. And every time he stood on his head, Everyone screamed, "Go back to bed!" And every time he made a leap, Everybody fell asleep. And every time he ate his tie, Everyone began to cry. And Cloony could not make any money Simply because he was not funny. One day he said, "I'll tell this town How it feels to be an unfunny clown." And he told them all why he looked so sad, And he told them all why he felt so bad. He told of Pain and Rain and Cold, He told of Darkness in his soul, And after he finished his tale of woe, Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no, They laughed until they shook the trees With "Hah-Hah-Hahs" and "Hee-Hee-Hees." They laughed with howls and yowls and shrieks, They laughed all day, they laughed all week, They laughed until they had a fit, They laughed until their jackets split. The laughter spread for miles around To every city, every town, Over mountains, 'cross the sea, From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee. And soon the whole world rang with laughter, Lasting till forever after, While Cloony stood in the circus tent, With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent. And he said, "THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT I'M FUNNY JUST BY ACCIDENT." And while the world laughed outside. Cloony the Clown sat down and cried. Shel Silverstein


The use of words to imitate sounds is called onomatopoeia. Bang, pop, hiss, and sizzle are good examples. An onomatopoeia mimics the sound it is describing.



Bang and crash are examples of onomatopoeia that mimic loud noises. Baa Baa Black Sheep Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear; Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear? ~ Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman

Some other very common examples include: (1) Everyday sounds: (2) Machine sounds: (3) Animal sounds: bang, clap, hiccup, snore beep, honk, screech buzz, purr, quack, coo, hiss

Practice: Match the following sentences to the onomatopoeia that describes them. (1) A plate being dropped on the floor. (2) A balloon being burst. (3) A gun being shot. (4) Someone eating crisps. (5) A light being switched on. (6) A fierce dog. (7) A small bell being rung. TINKLE BANG SMASH GROWL POP CRUNCH CLICK

Practice: Read the onomatopoeic poem Animals, a famous Mother Goose nursery rhyme. Can you find any examples of onomatopoeia? Underline the examples. Animals Bow-wow, says the dog, Mew, mew says the cat, Grunt, grunt, goes the hog, And squeak goes the rat. Tu, whu, says the owl, Quack, quack, says the duck, And what the cuckcoo says you know.


Can you search for other examples of onomatopoeia in other nursery rhymes, like Old McDonald Had a Farm and If You Are Happy? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Practice: Read another interesting onomatopoeic poem Cafeteria and spot the examples of onomatopoeia. Guess what sounds are described in these lines. What sound is it?

Boom! Went the food trays. Clap! Clap! Goes the teacher. Rip! Went the plastic bag. Munch! Munch! Go the students. Slurp!!! Went the straws. Whisper Is what half the kids in the room are doing. Crunch! Crunch! go the candy bars.

By Rachael


Word choices (diction) & wording (syntax):

1. Connotation The connotations refer to the emotional implications and associations that a word may carry, in contrast to its denotative meanings.

Connotation is the emotional and imaginative association surrounding a word. 2. Diction

Denotation is the strict dictionary meaning of a word.

Diction refers to the writer's or the speaker's distinctive vocabulary choices and style of expression. Poetic diction is the term used to refer to the linguistic style, the vocabulary, and the metaphors used in the writing of poetry.


Ambiguity Ambiguity is the quality of having more than one meaning; does "A friend in need is a friend indeed" mean that a friend in your hour of need is truly a friend, or a friend who needs something will act in a friendlier fashion? e.g. Prostitutes Appeal to Pope (newspaper headline) "Leahy Wants FBI to Help Corrupt Iraqi Police Force" (headline at, December 2006) Visiting relatives can be boring.


Parallelism Parallelism means to give two or more parts of the sentences a similar form so as to give the whole a definite pattern. e.g. Ill love you, dear, Ill love you Till China and Africa meet, And the river jumps over the mountain And the salmon sing in the street ... ~ W. H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening



Repetition Repetition of a sound, syllable, word, phrase, line or stanza is a basic unifying device in all poetry. The use of repetition can heighten the emotional impact of a piece. e.g. Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope Because I do not hope to turn.... ~ T. S. Eliot's, Ash-Wednesday

Visual Patterns:
Use your eyes: notice how the poem is arranged on the page. What can you see will start you on your way into the poem. These are the elements which help to shape a poem: 1. Framing Does the poem have few words, leaving a great deal of white space on the page? Poets sometimes frame poems in white space, signaling the reader to give careful thought to each word.


Word spacing Are the words in straight lines with regular spacing, or are they scattered around the page? Words scattered in unusual patterns may signal you to think in unusual patterns as you read. Line lengths, line breaks and the shape of the poem are other details you should pay attention to.


Sections Is the poem all in one piece? Or is it divided into sections, with spaces between them? These sections, called stanzas, can work like paragraphs. Each stanza my show a different image, viewpoint, or idea.


Narrative voice (tone):

Learn the adjectives that can be used to describe the tone of a poem: Positive: Negative: playful, lighthearted, romantic, idealistic, hopeful, joyful, humorous somber, cynical, detached, subversive, satirical, angry, ironic, despairing

Practice: Make a collection of adjectives that can be used to describe a poem. Positive Negative


My Revision Notes:


Responding to a poem
The following poems are about school life. Analyze the poems and make notes in the double entry. Sketch your responses in the Analysis Column. Consider the poetic techniques used by the poet to express the meanings. Highlight the lines which you like best. Explain why you like these lines. Poem 1 Analysis

I HATE SCHOOL by Carmen R. Slater I hate the librarian I hate the books, I hate the cafeteria I hate the cooks. I hate the gym. I hate to exercise. I hate science I hate to hypothesize. I hate social studies. I hate geography. I hate math. I don't use geometry. I hate speech. My tongue gets tied. I hate home-ec. Everything gets fried. BUT most of all I hate summer. When does school start? Doing nothing is a bummer.


Poem 2


If I Were the Principal

If I were the Principal, boy, things would change. Our school would be fun, if a little bit strange. We'd keep kangaroos in the classrooms as pets. We'd travel to Tonga and learn to fly jets. We'd get to make movies, and all become stars. For field trips we'd blast off on rockets to mars. We'd learn to raise monsters and build time machines. We'd surf on tsunamis in sleek submarines. We'd learn to make robots with nuclear brains, and dig up a dinosaur's fossil remains. We'd battle with pirates and plunder their gold. We'd duel with dragons for treasures untold. We'd practice some potions and magical spells to stink up the schoolyard with sickening smells, to make us invisible, eighty feet tall, or turn into liquid or walk through a wall. Yes, if I were Principal, that's what we'd do. We'd lock evil scientists up in the zoo, while vanquishing villains and capturing crooks. In other words, we would read many more books. Kenn Nesbitt


Poem 3


If I wrote the exams

If I wrote the exams There would be more time, Fewer questions, More choices, More freedom. How much time do I need To say everything I know, Everything I learn from everything I read And everything inside that I want to show? An hour? A day and a night? A week? Could you ask one question, But with lots of ways To show what Ive learnt? Thats my suggestion. A picture Ive painted, a model Ive made, A story, a song, an essay if you need. And the subjects I take, Theyre not right for me. Theyre not for my sake. So can I pick something that makes me feel Interested, excited, happy, fulfilled? Because I want to be free To express what I think, And show the examiner What it means to be me: A student taking knowledge Like a thirst-quenching drink; A poet, with words, a soul and a rhyme. More freedom. More choice. Fewer questions. More time.

Useful Structures:
To comment on the theme / topic / meaning of a poem:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. The major subject of this poem is The poems main focus is on The poem is written form the perspective/ point of view of ... The writer stresses the points that The poet says, because The poet feels / believes that as shown from the line . The poet is pleased with / upset with / interested in The problems facing the narrator / persona are According to Stanza XXX,

10. The topic is described in an interesting way. For example, 11. The theme is clearly shown because the poet 12. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 13. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 14. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

To comment on the title of a poem:

15. The title is suggestive / interesting. It means / refers to 16. The title makes some allusion to the main theme of the poem. That is 17. The poem is called because 18. The poem has an interesting title. It reminds the readers of 19. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 20. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 21. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

To comment on the poetic techniques of a poem:

22. The use of (figure of speech) is prevalent throughout the poem because (figure of speech) , which reinforces come alive in the 23. The poets rich imagery and the intelligent use of poem. These help to convey the meaning of 24. The poet fills many lines with 25. The poem uses (figure of speech) effectively. (figure of speech)

26. Interesting images are used. For instance, 27. The poem finishes with the line because 28. The poem is clearly structured. (Explain the structures and their functions.) 29. Rhyme is used effectively / skillfully in the stanza / in the poem. 30. The use of rhyme is a prominent feature of the poem. Rhymes are used on each line / on every second line.

31. The poem is made up of rhyming couplets. For example, 32. The poet uses rhymes to draw our attention to 33. There is a change of mood in the poem. In Stanza XXX, Towards Stanza XXX, the writer 34. The poem grabs the readers attention by 35. The writer uses the elements of to develop the theme of the poem. 36. The poem has an interesting opening / ending. 37. The poem flows naturally because 38. Humour can be found everywhere in the poem. For example, 39. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 40. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 41. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

To comment on the choice of words of a poem:

42. The expression is intriguing / worth-discussing because 43. In line XXX, the phrase refers to 44. Expressions to are used appropriately. 45. (line XXX) and (line XXX) are the emphasized content words in the poem. 46. The words and suggest to me 47. The words and best describe the mood of the poem / the attitude of the writer. 48. The words , and all make me think of 49. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 50. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 51. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

To talk about your feelings towards a poem:

52. The poem is about I like / dont like this theme because 53. The poem is enjoyable to read / difficult to understand / entertaining to read. 54. I have sympathy for the poet because 55. I admire the poet very much because 56. I think this poem is inspirational / inspiring because 57. I share the writers feelings because 58. After reading the poem, I agree / disagree with the writer that 59. The poem makes me want to 60. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 61. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 62. _____________________________________________________________________________________________


Do you still remember the essential questions we need to raise when we appreciate a poem? What does the poem say? What does the poem mean? How does the poem convey the meaning? What do you think is relevant beyond the text of the poem?

Its time for you to practice reflecting on a poem by applying the skills and language input you have learnt from this resource pack. Make use of the following double entry to analyze the poem and organize your responses to it. Below is a poem written by a teenager to his parents. Write a 220-word response essay on the poem on a single-lined paper. Discuss the poem with your friends to generate more ideas before you work on your own essay. Remember, two heads are better than one! Note Sheet


Poem 4

Response Notes

by Author Unknown

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. Listen! All I asked was that you listen. Not to talk or do-just hear me. Advice is cheap. Ten cents will get you both Dear Abby and Bill Graham in the same newspaper. And I can do for myself. I'm not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless. When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and weakness. But, when you accept as a single fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get to the business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling. And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them. So, please listen and just hear me. And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn; and I'll listen to you.


Sample UT question:

time is a gift and curse, time is for the better or worse, time will make us ride a horse, time created the universe, time created the constitution, time creates evolution, time is unfair, time makes you grow grey hair, time doesn't really care, time is something you can't share, time sometimes is funny, time is what it takes to earn money, time makes the world go round, time in history is lost but also found, time can be a disaster, time sometimes makes you live happily ever after.


Guided Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. What is the topic about? What is the writers attitude towards it? What poetic techniques has he used in the poem? How does the choice of words help to express his thoughts? Which line(s) will best express your views about time? Why?

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