I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Contributor: Erin Harris. Lesson ID: 11083

Have you ever read a poem and thought you were reading a whole other language? Poems are often written using figurative language. This lesson is going to assist you with analyzing this poetic code!


Literary Studies

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Watch Peanuts - "How do I Love Thee?" (below) and see if you can understand the poem as well as do Lucy and Snoopy:

You may wonder how Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang just naturally and easily understand the very famous, but complex, poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "How do I Love Thee."

Take a moment to discuss with your instructor whether you have ever heard that poem before, and what words stand out to you from the poem. Talk about what you understood and what you did not understand.

  • What do you think the poem is about and why?

You can read it here: How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) from Poets.org.

Well, the first step to understanding and analyzing poetry is knowing the terms:

Literary Terms (also called Literary Elements)

  1. Simile Comparing two unlike things, using the words "like" or "as "Ex. She is like the morning sun. She and the sun are being compared.
  2. Metaphor Comparing two unlike things NOT using the words "like" or "as"Ex. She is the morning sun. She and the sun are being compared.
  3. Personification Giving non-human things human traits or abilitiesEx. The trees waved as we passed by. Trees cannot wave, but the wind can make them move.
  4. Irony When one thing is thought to happen, but the opposite happens (can be called "ironic ")Ex. You brag that you will get the best score on a test and you actually get the worst.
  5. Foreshadowing Hinting at what might come. This happens all the time in horror movies, using music. You hear the scary music before the bad guy comes or before something bad happens.Ex. The night was dark, but darker than usual. This hints that this night is different, and bad might happen.
  6. Symbol Represents more than what just isEx. A heart is a heart, but also represents — or is — a symbol for love.
  7. Tone The words an author chooses to create a certain moodEx. It was a dark and stormy night.
  8. Mood The feeling created by the author's choice in wordsEx. It was a dark and stormy night. You might feel a little creeped out.
  9. Hyperbole An over-exaggerationEx. I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
  10. Onomatopoeia The word pronounced sounds just like the sound it is describingEx. Crash, boom, bang
  11. Alliteration When a phrase has the same vowel or consonant sound that begins each wordEx. Big blue balls bounce better.
  12. Assonance When a phrase has the same internal vowel soundEx. The loud sound mounds the waves.

Become a little more familiar with the literary terms by practicing with flashcards on Quizlet's Literary Elements Definitions.

Next, continue on to the Got It? section for some practical poetry practice!

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