Analyzing Theme in Poetry: TP-CASTT Resources

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

                                   ― Leonard Cohen

I am fanatical in my love of poetry, but I know students rarely share my John Keating like zeal.  It is difficult to understand, boring, and “not that deep, Mrs. Lust.”

As much as I would love to disseminate my deep affection for the artful and concise use of words to relay deep and powerful human truths to others, I do recognize that poetry is dense at times, and if you don’t understand it, boring.

Personally, I think the TP-CASTT strategy is a good tool to help students break poetry into more manageable “chunks” of understanding.  It is a good way to build upon elements of the poem to reach a cohesive conclusion about the theme that can then be supported with evidence.

The parts of TP-CASTT are as follows:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Title 

What might this poem be about based upon the title?  Are there any “clues” hidden in the title? Such as:

  • Allusions
  • Symbols
  • Literary devices
  • Possible perspectives

Paraphrase 

  • What is happening in the poem?
  • Is there a literal situation or experience that can be identified?

Connotation   

What poetic devices are used in the poem?

o    Imagery

o    Figures of speech (simile, metaphor, personification, symbolism etc.)

o    Diction (word choice)

o    Point of view

o    Sounds devices (alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme etc.)

  • Why does the author use these devices? What effect do they have on the reader?
  • How do these devices and effects contribute to the overall meaning of the poem?

Attitude

When determining attitude, think “complexity.” Human feelings and expressions are often complex in poetry (and otherwise, too) and cannot be named in a single word.

  • What is the primary attitude present in the poem about the subject?
  • Are there shifts in attitude?
  • Are there secondary emotions present?
  • What devices contribute to the development of these attitudes?

o    Diction

o    Imagery

o    Other details

Shifts

Where are there shifts in attitude or understanding within the poem? Are those shifts indicated by:

  • Key words, (but, yet, however, although)
  • Punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, ellipsis)
  • Stanza divisions
  • Changes in line or stanza length or both
  • Changes in sound that may indicate changes in meaning
  • Changes in diction

Title- Revisited

Look at the title again:

  • What new insights do you have about the title?
  • What do you think the title means now?

Theme

  • What subject or subjects does the poem address?
  • What is the author’s perspective on this/these subject(s)?
  • What did you learn about those subjects? What idea does the poet want you to take away concerning these subjects?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After completing these parts of poetry analysis, students will be prepared to write an analysis of a theme in a poem using textual evidence to support how that theme is developed throughout.

In addition, there is also a graphic organizer provided below that students can use to analyze two poems and then compare and contrast how they deal with a similar theme in an essay or short writing.

Here are some resources that can be used to teach TP-CASTT to students:

Additional Resources:

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