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Performing Poetry


Submitted by: Paulette Romano  

Here are a few exercises to help students practice how to recite poetry successfully:

1) Voice Emphasis


Exercise 1:

Use the following poem by Bruce Lansky:



        My baby sister's

        really swell.

        I love her smile,

        but not her smell.


Have students take turns reading poem emphasizing one word over  the others. This means to read the word louder, slower or more dramatically. For instance, if you emphasize "My" it means  my baby sister as opposed to yours. Discuss how the meaning of the poem changes as different words are emphasized.

  Exercise 2:

Some poems require the use of different voices or characters. Students should practice these different voices but are often reluctant to do so. Here is an exercise to portray a character's voice.

Use the following poem by Bruce Lansky:



        Dirty clothes should b put in the hamper.

        Clean clothing belongs in the drawer.

        But it takes too much time and it takes too much work -

        so I throw them all over the floor.


Have students work in pairs and practice reading to each other. They should read the poem each time with these different voices: a) their own mother or father; b) a really mean or strict person; c) a different accent of their choice; d) a really boring voice; e) a cheerful voice; f) a police officer's voice. The key to this practice is to overemphasize each character so that the student gets used to using a different type of voice than his own.


2) Body Movement and Gestures


Use the following emotions for this exercise: happy, angry, afraid, surprised, sad, jealous, apologetic, shy. Have students practice being the arms of another student by standing behind him and slipping their arms through the arms of student facing an audience. The student playing the "hands" part tries to show the given emotion through gesturing and positioning of arms and hands.


3) Facial Expression Exercise


Using a list of identifiable emotions (happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, shy, hopeful, disappointed, anxious, bored, stubborn, puzzled, sorry, disgusted), display a particular emotion and have class demonstrate what it might look like. Discuss how each part of their face moves for a particular emotion (especially eyes, forehead, and mouth).

Once this is practiced enough, form small groups and have each member take turns with a different emotion and let group guess.