How to Read a Poem From: Handbook: A Student Guide for Reading and Learning
Before Reading the Poem • Set a Purpose “What is the poem saying?” “What makes this poem special or memorable?
Before Reading the Poem • Preview: • The poem’s title and author • It’s overall shape and organization • The first and last lines • Any rhymes and where they occur • Any repeated or key words.
While Reading the Poem Plan on . . . • 1. Read the poem through the first time for fun. • 2. Read the poem the second time and look for the poet’s meaning. • 3. Focus on the poem’s organization and sounds the third time around. • 4. Connect! Poetry touches both your mind and your heart.
Whatifby Shel Silverstein Last night, while I lay thinking here, Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear And pranced and partied all night long And sang their same old Whatif song: Whatif I'm dumb in school? Whatif they've closed the swimming pol? Whatif I get beat up? Whatif there's poison in my cup? Whatif I start to cry? Whatif I get sick and die? Whatif I flunk that test? Whatif green hair grows on my chest? Whatif nobody likes me? Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me? Whatif I don't grow tall? Whatif my head starts getting smaller? Whatif the fish won't bite? Whatif the wind tears up my kite? Whatif they start a war? Whatif my parents get divorced? Whatif the bus is late? Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight? Whatif I tear my pants? Whatif I never learn to dance? Everything seems swell, and then The nighttime Whatifs strike again!
Poetry Reading Strategies • Paraphrasing chart • Double-entry Journal • Two Per Line
Paraphrase Chart Lines My paraphrase I feel fine during the day, but I worry a lot at night. “Everything seems swell, and then/ The nighttime whatifs strike again!” My Thoughts The kid in the poem says that everything seems scarier at night. I agree. I often imagine things and feel afraid when I’m alone in the dark.
Two Per Line Text My Ideas Speaker is probably in bed at night, about to go to sleep. What whatifs creep up on him. They are his worries. “Last night, while I lay thinking here, Some whatifs crawled inside my ear.”
Double-Entry Journal Quotes My Thoughts These whatifs seem real, like insects. That sounds like a real worry. “Some whatifs crawled inside my ear.” “Whatif I’m dumb in school?”
After Reading • Pause and reflect. • Go through the poem with one of the reading strategies listed here. • Discuss it! • Remember how the poem connects with your own life. • Read some analysis about it. • Reread with a new strategy.