How To Teach Your Students To Analyze Literary Devices?

A common issue English teachers face is that, after drilling students on identifying various types of figurative language, they still can’t analyze the devices. Just naming them, doesn’t invest in understanding their aims and usage. If students aren’t closely reading texts for language, not only will their essays and assignments suffer, but it also reinforces their suspicions that this is a pointless effort.

When it comes to solving this problem, many teachers face difficulties and it’s totally understandable. Sometimes, they even give up and don’t feel any motivation to teach this topic again. However, there are definitely some effective approaches that might help you if you are stuck, too. 

Practical Tips on Teaching Literary Devices

One of the keys to helping your students master this skill is to let them develop a strong understanding of literary devices. Of course, this is not the first step in analyzing the text. You should start with the plot diagram template you can find on StoryboardThat and proceed to more complex analysis. This can be done by focusing on the following components:

  1. Analyzing context and purpose. Many literary devices are used to achieve specific goals or convey a certain message, so it’s important for students to understand how these devices are being used in a particular text. 
  2. Focusing on close reading and annotation. Close reading is an essential skill when analyzing literary devices, and annotation can help students better understand the text and recall important information for writing assignments. 
  3. Practicing with exercises and activities. Whether through in-class discussions or individual writing practice, providing opportunities for students to work directly with literary devices can be a powerful way to reinforce key concepts and skills. 
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Start with a Limited Number of Related Devices 

This can help ensure that students have the opportunity to develop a strong understanding of each device, and it will also make it easier for them to identify patterns and relationships between different devices as they continue studying. 

Ultimately, by providing your students with clear instruction and guidance, you can help them become confident analysts of literary devices. With practice, they’ll be able to incorporate these devices into their writing and critical thinking, improving the quality of their work and deepening their engagement with the texts they read.

Show Students What to Look for

Once students understand the purpose of literary devices and how to use them effectively, they should be able to analyze texts independently. However, it can also be helpful to provide some guidance on what you’d like your students to pay close attention to when analyzing these devices in practice. 

Some common areas of focus include: 

  • The overall impact of a particular device, such as how it contributes to tone or meaning 
  • Connotations and associations that are related to the device, such as its historical context or specific meanings in different contexts 
  • Technical features of the text, such as line breaks, punctuation marks, etc. 

By making these areas clear for your students, you can help them develop a strong understanding of how to use different literary devices effectively. 

You should also provide your students with opportunities to practice analyzing these devices and apply their knowledge in new contexts. This will help to build motivation and confidence to learn more about literature.

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Finally, it’s also important to recognize that literary devices are a continuous and evolving aspect of language. As such, students will need to continue practicing and developing their skills throughout high school and beyond. However, with clear instruction and sustained practice, your students can become confident and skilled literary analysts who are able to deepen their understanding of literature and use these devices in a wide variety of contexts.

In Conclusion

If you are struggling to teach your students how to analyze literary devices, there are a few strategies you can try. For example, you might consider incorporating more interactive activities and exercises into your lessons or providing additional support and guidance for struggling students. Additionally, it may be helpful to consult with fellow educators or seek out professional development opportunities to help hone your skills as a teacher. Ultimately, the key is to remain patient and persistent in your efforts, as mastery of this skill takes time and practice.

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