Some of my favorite moments in my classroom have been witnessing my students annotate poetry. Poetry is subjective in nature, which can make it a bit daunting – but it is for this very reason that it can also be so engaging! I’ll never forget the lessons when a student noticed something unique in a poem. Of course, they couldn’t have arrived there without learning how to annotate poetry first. In this blog post, I’ll share some strategies and activities that you can use for teaching poetry annotation in your classroom. You’ll also learn a 4-step approach to annotating poetry to guide your students through this process.
What is annotating in reading?
Annotating is the process of writing notes next to a verse of poetry. These notes may express thoughts, questions, evaluations, or definitions. They may also note the meter (or “rhythm”) of the poem. Annotations are also known as notations, elucidations, or explications. The process of annotating is also known as noting, “marking up,” or performing a close reading.
Teaching students how to annotate poetry
For students to be able to annotate poetry, they will first need to understand the elements of poetry. These include key concepts like meter, rhythm, and verse. Exploring the elements of poetry will help students with the vocabulary to further analyze a poem. If your students need a refresher, you can use this lesson on the elements of poetry.
Students will also benefit from understanding poetic devices so that they can identify these while they annotate. A poetic device anchor chart is a great way to keep students oriented with these concepts during their annotations.
I like to introduce annotating poetry to students as if it were cracking a code. You can explain to students that poems are like riddles or secrets: they are mysterious, cryptic, and written in a “poetic code.” Our annotations help us to translate this “code” and grasp the underlying meaning.
What are the 4 steps of annotating poetry?
Breaking down the annotation process is an easy way to help your students analyze poetry. You can use the following four-step approach to annotating poetry to guide your students through this process:
Step 1: Initial Read
Students should read through the poem at least once to get a sense of the mood, tone, and meaning. They can also read through the poem stanza by stanza and paraphrase the poem on paper or in their head. While they read, they can look up words that they don’t know or highlight any areas of the poem that stand out to them.
Step 2: Poetic Form
Students can then consider the elements of poetry presented in the poem. They should consider the meter and rhyme scheme or identify the type of verse. If your students do not know how to annotate meter you can use this slideshow lesson on how to annotate poetry.
Step 3: Poetic Devices
The next step involves searching for poetic devices and noting their effect. Students can apply their knowledge from previous lessons on poetic devices or refer to a poetic device anchor chart during this step.
Step 4: Re-Read
Finally, students will re-read the poem after annotating to come to a deeper understanding.
After students have annotated the poem, it’s now time to analyze! You can prompt students to write a paragraph or essay sharing their close reading of the poem. All of the steps mentioned in this process are outlined in this free annotation anchor chart bookmark.
Practicing how to annotate poetry with students
Before having your students annotate poetry independently, it can be helpful to practice this process together. When you practice how to annotate poetry with your students, you can model each step to them.
This “how to annotate poetry” lesson includes a slideshow for Microsoft PowerPoint® and Google Slides®. In this slideshow, students will learn both how to annotate poetry and why it is necessary. You can then direct them through a guided annotation of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes. The slideshow includes a breakdown of each stanza in the poem. There is also an example of an analysis paragraph that summarizes these annotations.
This lesson also includes annotating poetry worksheets for students to use to follow along with the lesson and practice their own annotations. Additionally, students will have access to an annotation bookmark to use as a personal anchor chart.
This lesson allows you to scaffold how to annotate poetry with your students. The final step would be to have students repeat this process independently. Student choice is a great strategy for having students learn annotation because it allows them to practice with poetry within their comfort zone. Having students annotate song lyrics is a great way to make this activity engaging and incorporate student choice.
How to Annotate Poetry in the Classroom
Annotating poetry is a great hands-on approach for exploring this expressive art form. Teaching your students how to annotate poetry will help them feel more confident with reading and analyzing poems. When your students know how to annotate, they are also likely to have way more fun reading poetry! My students never cease to amaze me with their unique perceptions of poetry, and I trust your students will be the same.