Analyzing “War Girls” using a TPCASTT Guided Close Reading

James Mechikoff


Step by Step Instructions

I will perform an annotated close reading of the poem War Girls, by Jessie Pope, as an opportunity to teach World War I literature, analyze a poem for figurative language, and give a voice to an otherwise historically marginalized group from a period of time they are often forgotten or overlooked. In the case of this example lesson, this will be analyzing women’s voices in World War I poetry, which is a typically under-recognized group. In this case, this is disrupting the commonplace as the most famous authors of World War I poetry are Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, etc. All those examples are men, and thus this will be different than what is commonly read and analyzed. This annotated close reading will use the TPCASTT format, with some modifications for the idea of this being also in mind for critical literacy that I am calling a TPCASTT + CL [Example Handout Here], which is an excellent guided format for how a close reading of a poem can be performed using a detailed handout that has both guided instructions, and a table for students to write.

  1. During the first step, I will hand out the poems to the students face down, and ask students to hold off on reading any of them till I have asked students to turn them over when we work on this together. I would also hand out the TPCASTT + CL handout, as is shown just below these steps.
  2. T – Title – The first step in the TPCASTT + CL involves analyzing the meaning of the title before reading the poem [See Example Handout Here].
    1. This is when I’d first ask students to flip over the poem and move into the first step of the TPCASTT + CL which focuses on just the title, with no reference to the poem. I’d focus primarily on asking students what they think about the poem’s title “War Girls,” and to detail their thoughts in the handout section for this. If a poem was used without the title, you can skip to the next step!
  3. P – Paraphrase – The second step of the TPCASTT + CL is to paraphrase the surface meaning of the poem.
    1. This is when I’d encourage students to read through the poem quietly, just one time through, and then right down what they think is happening. I’d remind students not to dig into things deep here, just read it and write it down. I’d also write my own example while they quietly read and write theirs.
  4. C – Connotation – The third step, connotation, invites students to look more deeply into the poem.
    1. This is the big step really. Now is when I’d have students identify and highlight the parts of the poem with a deeper meaning, or that they think is metaphorical. I’d have students all write down one line/quote on their TPCASTT + CL handout with what they think is the meaning. Whatever they best think is a good example of figurative language.
  5. Pause and discuss (Optional)
    1. This is an optional step, but now would be a great time to stop and discuss with students in pairs, small groups, or a whole class discussion to both break up the independent work, and to make sure students are getting things. The C step really builds into the rest of the steps, so it might be a good chance to also informally assess where the students are before they start to really work with the poem more.
  6. A – Attitude – The Tone and the Narrator
    1. Here I’d encourage students to again, read through the poem and focus on the feeling the poem gives. Does our poetic narrator seem to have a specific tone in the poem? How do they feel about what the poem is kind of about like they identified in the previous step? I’d have students detail this under the A section of the handout.
  7. S – Shifts – Looking for when the A step changes.
    1. This is where we will look at things like where the attitude of the poem might switch around. This can be especially helpful for more common poems like sonnets that are renowned for their shifting nature, but also just for general poetry like “War Girls” for this example. I’d make sure to emphasize with students not just to note where it happens, but also to discuss what it looks like. I might ask if the poetic narrator’s point of view changes and how?
  8. T – Title – Reevaluate
    1. Now encourage students to step back, and reevaluate the title. Before, we did it with no real context, but here, we have the context. I’d maybe make sure to focus and ask students, does the title have a double meaning? Is the title itself figurative? Or is the title literal? All great points you can use to encourage students when they are filling out their TPCASTT + CL.
  9. T – Theme – Finally, all the pieces together, what is the meaning here?
    1. This is the final big puzzle coming together. Here is where I’d ask my students to take everything we have now, and put it together. What is the real theme going on here? What is the final big picture? It puts all the pieces that we built up before together, and it will help for the next steps.
  10. + CL – Critical Literacy – Disrupting the Commonplace
    1. This is the final step that I want to talk about since this focuses on the big picture of this lesson. Now that we know the big idea of the whole poem, I want to shift students’ focus to talking about how this poem might be different from the standard poems we analyze when looking at world war 1 poetry. I’d highlight things like the woman author, and how this perspective differs from what is often considered the norm. When looking at World War I poetry, figures like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owens, and Rupert Brooke, all of whom are males, often come up in discussion. Therefore looking at a women’s perspective in this case is far from what is often considered the commonplace when discussing World War I poetry. I will encourage students to address how they think this poem disrupts the commonplace of world war I poetry and the era of world war I. I am incorporating this lesson as part of a larger series of lessons, but this can be done with any poem.

The reason I chose this text in the context of critical literacy is that I wanted to analyze a perspective that can often be forgotten and overlooked when looking at this particular era of poetry. When analyzing world war 1 poetry, the perspective that is most focused on is often the soldiers. I wanted this lesson to instead disrupt that commonplace and focus on the perspective of others in the war, in this case, the women back at home.

Video Demonstration

About the author

My name is James Mechikoff, and I am a technical communication major with a focus on education and educational literacy. Education is about sharing our experiences with others in a way that is meant to teach and for others to learn from it. That is why I chose this area of focus in technical communication. Because to be able to communicate, especially the highly technical nature of some more advanced processes, you need to know how to teach your audience about that. That is part of why I also wanted to focus on this activity; I want to focus on making the implicit more explicit.