Just Act Natural: Poetry and Play

Lesson Introduction

What a poem does on the page and what it does aloud can be two very different things. Since the recital audience does not read but only listens, some of a poem’s more visually formal conventions should be deemphasized in the early stages of recital work to allow the student to access the poem's voice(s) and wisdom. Teachers should encourage students to play with a poem in as many ways as possible.

This series of three lessons focuses on teaching the recognition of formal poetic conventions (such as metre, rhyme, and enjambment), both as guides to understanding and sometimes as obstacles  to delivering engaging recitations.

Having students play with the poem and make it suit their purposes, teachers can offer strategies for better comprehension, oratorical fluency, as well as facilitate the process of committing a poem to memory. In all, “Just Act Natural” aims to help students prepare uniquely moving recitals that communicate poetry’s playful wisdom to the audience.

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Identify, understand and apply scansion to a poem.
  • Identify rhyme, rhythm and metre as poetic conventions, and understand how these can emphasize meaning.
  • Identify and understand enjambment and its poetic effects. 
  • Understand punctuation as a guide for reading pace and intonation. 
  • Apply reorganizational strategies to facilitate the memorization process.
  • Apply various reading styles and vocal techniques to poetry.

Materials and Resources

To teach this lesson, you will need:

  • digital and printed copies poems for student recitals and poems listed in this lesson plan for analysis and discussion, all from the PIV online anthology
  • a class set of computers equipped with a word-processing program

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