One really accessible strategy that I taught my students is an acronym called TPDASTT. I'll show you how it works:
Title--First you look at the title, before reading the poem, and write down any first impressions you may have.
Paraphrase--Go through the poem, not line by line, but by sentences--jot down the main, basic idea of each sentence.
Details: On the surface level--what is this poem about? Write down two-three basic things/subjects mentioned in the poem.
Attitude: Look at the poet's attitude toward the subject (look and see what you wrote down in the 'details' section above) he/she is writing about. How does hefeelabout it? This is the poet's TONE. I am including a link to a list full of really good TONE words.
Shifts: Does the poet's attitude change at all in the poem? I like to find specific phrases or words from the poem that go with the TONE.
Title: Re-examine the title, now that you have a deeper understanding of the poem. What do you believe the title refers to now?
Theme: What does the poem mean? What do the subjects in the poem represent, and what is the poet saying about them through his TONE?
** One of the most important things to look for while you use the TPDASTT acronym is to pay attention to the poet's diction (the words he/she chooses to use)--careful attention to the diction c an be incredibly insightful when determining the poet's true feelings on the subject.