Learn It: Understand Your Poem


Understand your poem: The Write-Along

The first step to a good recitation is understanding your poem. The activity below is a great way to get right into a poem and figure out every line.

What You’ll Be Doing:

A write-along is a way to have a conversation on paper with many different readers about a poem. After collecting all the responses, you will have a record of many perspectives on the same poem. Once you have selected a poem from our anthology, you could try this technique with some of your classmates and family members to understand an unfamiliar poem.

What You’ll Need:

You will need to photocopy your poem on 11- x 14-inch paper so that there is enough room for your peers to write next to the poem’s lines with room to spare so that second and third readers can also write their comments.

How to Do It:

  1. Read the poem out loud to yourself once to get a sense of the rhythm and tone.
  2. Read the poem silently and write along with the author by jotting down your questions, ideas, responses, and feelings beside each line or stanza.
  3. Pass along the poem with your comments to another student and have them read the poem, read your reactions, and add their own responses in a second write-along.
  4. If you like, repeat this process again to get a different perspective. A reader of a different gender, culture, or age group might give you new insights into the poem.
  5. Collect the poem, and the responses, and read everything. See if you can now better understand the meaning, tone, and cadence of the poem.
  6. Remember to ask your teacher if you have any questions.


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