Whether you’re teaching students the perfect formula for a short constructed response (RACE), or the composition of a solid argument (CER), I think you’ll agree that when it comes to learning, acronyms are an invaluable tool. They provide our students with a mental shortcut for quickly and accurately recalling information or processes, and their structure brings clarity to what may otherwise feel like chaos. There is even an acronym for poetry analysis, and it works wonders when guiding your students through a poem. By introducing your students to the powerful TPCASTT method, they can unlock the secret of poetry analysis in no time.
What is TPCASTT?
TPCASTT is a poetry analysis acronym that stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude, Shifts, Title, & Theme. It’s a step-by-step guide that will help your students look at the many different layers of a poem to better understand and appreciate it. And, tpcastt can easily be used again and again with any poem! In fact, the more that your students use it, the more confident they will be when reading and analyzing poetry.
Why use TPCASTT?
Poetry is often one of the least prioritized units in a middle school teacher’s typical curriculum, which makes it harder for students to remember what to look for. That’s why introducing the TPCASTT method is such an invaluable tool–not only will it help them take a closer look at the title and recognize shifts, connotations, and attitudes, but it will also give them the structure and confidence they need when engaging with any poetic work.
From Mystery to Mastery: A Step-by-Step Guide to TPCASTT
Step 1: Title
Before your students jump into a poem, it’s important to start by looking at the title. Get them to ask themselves:
- What do I think this poem will be about based on the title?
- What questions do I have before I even begin to read?
These questions will help your students get into an analytical mindset and begin considering how the poem’s subject might relate to its form and content.
Step 2: Paraphrase
Invite your students to take time to read the poem in its entirety. The first reading is all about getting an overall sense of the poem.
Once they finish, encourage them to go back and give a paraphrased version of each line or stanza in the margins – essentially putting the poem into their own words. By doing this, they can develop their own “translation” of the poem.
Step 3: Connotation
After getting a general idea of the poem in steps 1 and 2, it’s time to dig deeper. Ask your students to reread the poem, this time looking for connotations or emotional messages behind the words. While they don’t need to take note of every poetic device used, highlighting the ones which contribute most to the overall effect is important.
Step 4: Attitude
Next, we’ll ask students to take a closer look at the speaker’s attitude or tone. Have them ask themselves:
- Who is the speaker?
- What is the topic?
- What is the speaker’s tone throughout the poem?
- Based on these elements, what can you infer about how the speaker feels toward the topic?
Step 5: Shift
Now It’s time for students to reread the poem a third time. As they peel back this next layer, ask them to look for shifts or changes within the poem or the speaker. These changes could be:
- Structural (line breaks, punctuation, length, etc.)
- Sound/Sound Devices
Once they have identified the shifts, encourage them to consider how this impacts the poem.
Step 6: Title Revisited
Revisiting the title is a way of completing the poem’s journey – both literally and symbolically. After peeling back the various layers of its meaning, ask students to take a fresh look at the title and consider what it now reveals about the poem that was not so obvious from the start.
Step 7: Theme/Central Idea/Message
The last and final step of the TPCASTT method is to invite students to generate a theme statement that reflects their understanding of the poem. Ask them to consider how the ideas and emotions expressed in the poem might reflect an overall message.
Tips for Effective Use of TPCASTT
The TPCASTT method is a wonderful tool that can provide structure to poetry analysis, allowing students to consider a broad range of elements – from tone and imagery to structure and perspective. However, it’s important not to forget about the beauty and emotion of poetry – so try striking a balance between reading for enjoyment and analyzing its deeper meaning. Allow students breaks while they work, remind them to view the poem as a whole, and consider how each part contributes to something unique.
The next time you read a poem with your students, give the TPCASTT method a try. If you are looking for the best poems for middle schoolers, you might check out this list for recommendations.