School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 3

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 4. Use elements of poetry to facilitate understanding


To show proficiency of the skills stated in this indicator, a reader will demonstrate an understanding of the elements of poetry which are the components through which poetry is structured and composed. Identification of each component and its relationship to all other components in a poem assist a reader in comprehension of the entire text of the poem. When a poem requires more complex thought processes, a reader advances from identification of poetry elements to the explanation, analysis, and evaluation of those elements. Thinking about all the elements of a poem and determining how they fit together allow a reader to understand a poem in all of its complexity.

In order to identify poetry as a literary form and be able to distinguish a particular poem from other types of poetry, a reader must identify and use a poem's structural features. Poems can tell stories, describe the positive and negative elements of a character, place, or thing, argue a position, express emotions, or create an image. Knowing the structure of a poem helps a reader determine a purpose for the poem and comprehend it in literal and abstract ways.

Structural Features

A line or verse is a single line of poetry.

A stanza is two or more lines of poetry.

A refrain is a series of words or a line of poetry that is regularly repeated within the poem.

A rhyme is a repetition of sounds at the end of words.

A rhyme scheme is an arrangement of end rhymes in a poem. A pattern is organized by assigning a letter of the alphabet to each line. The first line of a poem is assigned the letter A. Each following line of poetry that rhymes with the first line is also assigned the letter A.

Types of Poems

A ballad tells a story and is meant to be sung or recited aloud.

A cinquain is based on syllable or word count. A traditional cinquain moves by line from two syllables to four syllables to six syllables to eight syllables and concludes with two syllables. The more current form of cinquain moves by line from one word to two words to three words to four words and concludes with a single word.

A diamonte moves from a subject in the first line of the poem to a completely different subject in the last line of the poem. The structure of a diamonte by line goes from one noun, the subject, two adjectives, three participles, four nouns, three participles, two adjectives, and concludes with one noun which is different from the noun in the first line.

An elegy is a sad poem which shows grief for the dead.

A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry which has three lines focused on a single element.

A lyric poem can appear in a variety of forms and shows the thoughts and feelings of one speaker.

A narrative poem tells a story in verse.

A shape poem has the form of its subject. For example a poem about a tree is shaped like a tree.

To understand a poem fully with all of its complexities a reader should focus on the meaning/s of each word within that poem that will lead to an understanding of individual lines and continue to understanding of an entire stanza. Poets choose their words with purpose and care. Reviewing the multiple meanings of words and attending to how a word is used contextually helps a reader discern shades of meaning within an individual word. Knowing the denotation of a word is an important first step, but knowing connotations of a word is critical to a reader of poetry. A reader should also be aware of the symbolic value of words in poetry. Knowing that an object or person symbolizes a quality or idea is essential to comprehension.

A critical reader understands that the speaker of the poem is not always the poet. The speaker is the creation of the poet and voices the words of the poem. The speaker has a personality and attitude that is discernable to a reader. Being attentive to the qualities and attitude of the speaker and connecting them to the words of the poem assists a reader with comprehension.

The organization of the words in a poem is another clue for a reader. The actual placement of a word within a line of poetry can be pivotal to understanding. The length of a poem's lines can focus a reader on the importance of certain words within a poem. The division between stanzas of a poem can signal the conclusion of one idea to move to another or the strengthening of an initial idea that continues to evolve throughout the poem. Because the words of a poem are more compact than prose, the placement, denotation, connotation, symbolism, and speaker of the words all become vital elements to creating meaning for a reader.

Because poetry is meant to be read or spoken aloud, the sound of the words is a critical piece of understanding. Listening to the rhyming of words, the organization of the rhyming words, the repetition of sounds, the imitation of natural sounds, and the relationship among these sound devices and how they contribute to the meaning of a poem are all elements a critical reader must explore. Discovering the bond between the sound and sense of a poem assists a reader with comprehension.

A rhyme is a repetition of sounds at the end of words.

A rhyme scheme is an arrangement of end rhymes in a poem. A pattern is organized by assigning a letter of the alphabet to each line. The first line of a poem is assigned the letter A. Each following line of poetry that rhymes with the first line is also assigned the letter A.

A poem's rhythm is created by the organization of sound from the placement of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry. The difference between stressed and unstressed syllable concerns the degree of emphasis when words are spoken.

Alliteration is a repetition of beginning consonant sounds in words.

Assonance is a repetition of vowel sounds in words.

Consonance is the pleasing arrangement of sounds in words.

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound like the natural noises they name.

A poet may use a sound device to emphasize a particular idea, create a melodious sound to foster a pleasant mood, or put together a series of harsh sounds to establish an angry tone. When a critical reader can determine a purpose for the poet's use of sound devices, a reader has constructed meaning from a poem.

In a narrative poem or ballad, the setting of that poem is integral to a reader's understanding. The setting addresses the time and place of the poem's action and plays a role in establishing the mood of a poem. The mood is the feeling of a poem. Mood is created by the poet's choice of words, sensory detail, and rhythm. The attitude of the poet or speaker toward his/her subject is the tone of the poem. Again, the poet's choice of words, sensory detail and rhythm help a reader determine the attitude toward the subject. For more detailed information about setting and mood, consult the Literary Clarification for Indicator Three, and for more detailed information about tone, consult the Literary Clarification for Indicator Seven.