The Poetry Read-Around
Building on last month’s “Listening to Poetry” activities, “Giving Voice” opens up the experience of listening to poems aloud by inviting everyone in the room to participate as a reader.
“Giving Voice” also offers an opportunity to spontaneously share poems that strike us as interesting and worth sharing without requiring us to offer any detailed, studied or critical explanation or justification for our choice. Sometimes the poems that we return to throughout our lives are those that continue to resonate with us in ways we can’t explain.
But our relationship to a poem doesn’t have to be life-long. We don’t even have to love a poem to want to share it. It may just amuse, tantalize or even puzzle us. Sometimes we put too much of a burden on poetry, as if it always has to be profound and moving. This can be intimidating. Let’s not forget that even Shakespeare wrote poems that were clever and funny; and that many ancient traditions treasure poems for their lightness and seeming spontaneity. We can share poems for how they strike us in the moment just as we do with any other art, including music, movies, TV shows and videos.
You can use a Dodge Poetry Kit for Teachers for this activity (Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get copies of kits from past Dodge Festivals.), or use the poetry section of your textbook, or distribute a variety of anthologies you might have available, or prepare a packet of poems.
Seat your students in a circle. Distribute poet pages from the Teacher Kit, poem pamphlets or anthologies, or have them open to the poetry section of the textbook.
Give students 10 minutes to read poems. They can go back-to-front, front-to-back, or shuffle and read at random. They don’t have to finish reading a poem that doesn’t interest them. They can skim and follow their whims until they come across something that strikes them as interesting enough to be read aloud.
Ask them to pick one poem or even just a few lines of a poem, spur-of-the-moment, without too much thought, to read aloud.
Do a read-around the circle of the poems or fragments of poems they’ve selected. You can go first. (You should participate in the activity.) Then simply have them read their poems around the circle, one after the other, without introductions or explanations. No commentary or criticism should be offered. Just listen together.
If you’d like, this activity can be followed by a second reading of the same poems, with students invited to talk about why they picked the poems they did. Some of the reading and listening activities described in last month’s “Listening to Poetry” blog could be tried as next steps. You could use the poems students selected and have them use them as sources for examples of the literary terms about poetry they are learning as part of the poetry unit.
If students enjoy the poet they choose to read, they can research that poet further and share what they learn later in the week. Many poets have websites or Facebook pages, Twitter or Instagram accounts, or blogs. This activity can be repeated over and over again.
Check back with us on the first Monday of each month for more tips on how to bring poetry into your classroom!