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:
What might this poem be about based upon the title? Are there any “clues” hidden in the title? Such as:
What poetic devices are used in the poem?
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.)
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.
o Other details
Where are there shifts in attitude or understanding within the poem? Are those shifts indicated by:
Look at the title again:
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:
- TP-CASST Power Point to introduce the strategy, including some quotes explaining why poetry is valuable (teaches us about life, makes us feel, reveals truths about the self)
- Handout and graphic organizer for analyzing one poem using the TP-CASTT
- Handout and graphic organizer for comparing two poems using TP-CASTT
- “50 Powerful Quotes About Poetry” (There are some really great lines here I used in the Power Point and post)
- Billy Collin’s TEDTalk where he shows animated films of his poems (These are creepy little films, but Billy Collins is pretty funny presenting them)