"Daybreak in Alabama:" Students Identify Figurative Language and Interpret Themes

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SWBAT identify figurative language and interpret themes of a poem by using a TP-CASTT organizer to identify supporting evidence from the text.

Big Idea

How can the TP-CASTT template help students move from identification to interpretation of figurative language and theme in a poem?


10 minutes

Set a Timer

In my first lesson on Poetry, Using TP-CASTT to Analyze the Poem "Lost Generation" I included a quiz on the poetic terms.  To reinforce their memory and retention, I begin this activator with another short vocabulary quiz on  Poetic devices that we've been reviewing. During the quiz I use an online Stop Watch,  because I have found that my students work better if they know they have a set time limit.  I'm not concerned with conventions during this quiz, but am looking for accurate definitions of the terms so that I can assess whether we are ready to use those terms in order to analyze poetry.

I want my students to persevere and not give up on a test or quiz.  Timed quizes can help students focus and get done in a set amount of time.  However, I think it's also important to be reasonable about the time. If I do not allow enough time for the assignment to be completed, my students will either give up or not try.  Have you had similar experiences?

Building Knowledge

20 minutes


To build students knowledge I want them to try and use their senses to understand Hughes's use of figurative language in the poem Daybreak in Alabama.  I begin by asking my students, this question, "When reading a poem, how do we identify and interpret themes and give supporting evidence from text?"  I facilitate a short discussion on identifying a theme in a poem, RL.9-10.2, and the importance of finding evidence that supports that theme, RL.9-10.1.  Few themes get more attention in the Common Core than finding evidence.  The search for evidence fuels the learning process, as my students must actively seek out information to support their claims of the poems theme and use of figurative language.

Setting the Stage

Before passing out the poem, I explain that this poem, like all of the other writing we have read in this unit thus far, was written during the Harlem Reconnaissance and Hughes was coming from an era of great oppression of African Americans.  I share these details with the students before we read the poem because I want to set the stage for them to think about what the author is saying and why he says it. I share that I  think this poem is special in that it has both innocence and depth.  I explain that Hughes speaks about the hopes he has for a better time after the oppression when he will be free. 

Next, I pass out the poem and ask students to read it silently in their heads as I read it out loud.  To increase retention and an appreciation for the rhythmic thoughts an feelings of this poem, I  have them experience the poem in another medium.  I explain that they will be seeing and hearing the poem read and that the video was created for a Music Technology project by a student who used a computer program called Logic Pro to add music and photos to the reading.  I then play the video:

Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

Students are then asked to read the poem again and annotate for the poetic devices we reviewed and are in their journals and on the word wall by underlining and labeling examples.  I circulate among them as they identify personification, metaphor, etc.

Next I pass out the TP-CASTT Poetry Analysis organizer that they started using in past poetry lessons to help analyze the poem.  This organizer assists them with identifying and determining meanings of words including connotative and figurative language as required by common core standard RL.9-10.4.

As students complete their analysis of poem using the TP-CASTT organizer to determine theme and interpret the figurative language, I circulate among the students asking comprehension questions (TP-CASST Theme and evidence from poem) to support their claims, RL.9-10.1.  Students are asked to share this found information, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely so I can follow the line of their reasoning SL.9-10.4.


Wrap Up

10 minutes

Verbal Exit Ticket

I found a great quote explaining why we use exit tickets:

"A further criterion for meaningful learning to have taken place is that, individuals must relate the new knowledge to the relevant concepts and propositions that they already know."

Novak & Gowin, 1984

What do you think?  Do you agree with this quote?

I ask students to wait at their desks at the end of the period. As I call on them to put their journals away, I ask that they share a theme or example of figurative language that they learned after reading the poem Daybreak in Alabama. Each student must give a different answer until all answers are taken and they can repeat another answer.