Activity Overview

Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a deeply and universally understood feeling in its readers. This makes expounding its elements, and understanding its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols, even more important.

The TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TP-CASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.

TPCASTT Example for "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"



“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” might imply that the narrator cheated death in some way.


The poem begins by personifying death as a person in a carriage, who picks up the narrator as a passenger. As they ride around peacefully, they see many things: children playing, fields of grain, and finally the head stone of the narrator. Here, she realizes that it has been centuries since she died. However, it only felt like a few hours.


Going beyond the literal meaning, Dickinson almost seems content with death.


Using words like “kindly”, “leisure”, “passed”, “riding”, “slowly”, and “civility” suggests an attitude of comfort and peace.


A shift occurs in stanza six, in the last four lines. “Since then- ‘tis Centuries – and yet/ Feels shorter than the Day/ I first surmised the Horses’ Heads/ Were toward Eternity.” The previous attitude that seemed peaceful changes to an enlightenment that is startling. The speaker comes to the realization that the ride has been centuries and not hours.


After reading the poem, my interpretation of the title was incorrect. The speaker was unable to cheat death. No matter what, when it is your time, it will come unexpectedly. No one is prepared, just as the speaker was not prepared.


The theme that 'Death is Eternity' is evident as the speaker realizes how far death goes as there is no concept of time.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of "Because I Could Not Stop for Death". Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/5] Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/7] Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

TPCASTT Analysis Rubric Template
Analyze a poem using the the TPCASTT method: Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
TPCASTT Responses
Every part of TPCASTT was thoroughly answered and there was sufficient evidence from the text.
Most parts of TPCASTT was answered with sufficient evidence to support claims.
Less than half of TPCASTT was answered and/or responses had insufficient evidence from the text.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depictions chosen for each section are accurate to the poem and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for each section are mostly accurate to the poem. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for each section are inaccurate to the poem. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the poem.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the poem and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the poem.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.

How To Explain TPCASTT Analysis to Students


Introduce the Concept

Ask the students to guess what TPCASTT stands for. Help them analyze the purpose and objectives of this approach. Explain to them that this analysis is used to analyze poetry and helps to understand the meaning of that poetry on a deeper level.


Breakdown the Stages

TPCASTT is performed in stages. The first stage i to read and interpret the title which is “T” and the next is paraphrasing the stanzas and trying to make sense of what the author is trying to say in your own words. Students can first understand this breakdown and teachers can explain each stage in detail.


Practice with Examples

After students are done understanding the sequence of the analysis, show them a few poems as models as you walk them through the TPCASTT procedure. To make sure everyone is aware of the stages and their importance, talk about the students' findings and analysis in the class and get everyone involved in the discussion.


Divide into Groups

Divide the students into groups of 4-5 and ask them to choose one poem on which they want to perform this analysis. Students can use graphic organizers and explain their analysis in a creative way in front of the whole class.


Reflect and Summarize

Ask students to consider what they discovered about the poem and the poet's objectives once they have finished the TPCASTT analysis. Discuss any unanswered issues or areas of uncertainty. Ask the students to explain how they think this framework of analysis was useful and what new things they discovered and learned through it.

Frequently Asked Questions About "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" TPCASTT Analysis

What is the significance of the title in the poem "Because I Could Not Stop For Death"?

The title implies that the speaker cannot escape or avoid death. It suggests a quiet resignation or submission to the certainty of death. Ask the students to reflect on the meaning of the title before and after reading the poem. Teachers can use these interesting answers to conduct a discussion on the change in perspectives.

What are some of the major meanings of important connotations used in "Because I Could Not Stop For Death"?

The images of the carriage trip, the playground at the school, and the setting sun are only a few of the important meanings. These evoke a feeling of serenity, acceptance, and the circularity of life and death. It also depicts the reality of life and the lifecycle of a person. Students can analyze the meaning of this journey from their own perspective and share it with the rest of the class.

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