Reading and Annotating Poetry: The Hangman by Maurice Ogden

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10602

It has been said, "Silence is golden!" Is that always the case? Sometimes, it's deadly! On that ominous note, follow this lesson using video and notes to learn how to interpret and personalize poetry!


Literary Studies

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Read the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

Now, read the quote out loud. Take a few minutes to think about what this quote means. Now that you've thought about it, try to rewrite the quote in your own words. What point is Gandhi trying to make?

Most of the time when you think about silence, you probably think of peace and quiet, maybe even sleep.

Silence is usually seen as positive and mature since little children tend to be noisy. However, silence can be dangerous in certain circumstances.

Read this short poem, "First They Came for the Socialists..." by Martin Niemoller (

Now that you have finished, let's focus on Niemoller's famous quotation.

The "they" in his poem is referring to the Nazi party of Germany, and he explains how the Nazi party began to target certain people in the society. The Socialists and Trade Unionists were political parties, but the Jews were targeted because of their race and religion. Niemoller confesses that he did not have the courage to speak out against these unjust attacks until it was too late and he became one of the targets.

He describes how silence can be an act of cowardice, just as Gandhi stated in his quote.

Niemoller's quotation became the foundation for the poem "The Hangman" by Maurice Ogden. Print "The Hangman" Poem found in the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

Read the poem straight through for enjoyment. Read it again out loud. Now, work through the following steps, TP-KAST, to annotate the poem:

  • T= Title: explain what you think the title means
  • P= Paraphrase: rewrite the stanzas into your own words
  • K= Key Words: select the most important or interesting words in each stanza
  • A= Attitude: choose an adjective to describe how the speaker of the poem (not the poet) feels toward the subject of the poem (NOTE: you can have more than one!)
  • S= Shifts in attitude or tone: draw a small symbol next to the stanza(s) where the speaker's attitude changes
  • T= Theme: write a 1-2 sentence summary of the poem's main message

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