1. Have students browse the poems.
Allow time for the students to explore, either as homework or a classroom activity.
2. Begin class with a poem a day.
A good way to expose students to poetry is to have a poem read or recited at the start of each class period. The homepage has a poet of the day feature, including poems and poet biographies.
3. Have students select poems to memorize.
Allow students to choose their own poems. Encourage them to build up range and level of difficulty, keeping in mind that long poems are not always the most difficult. By memorizing and reciting, students internalize the author’s message and further explore phrases and lines they could not master initially.
4. Discuss the poems in class.
Understanding the text is the most important preparation for reciting poetry. If a student doesn’t understand the text, neither will the audience.
5. Share these memorization tips with your students:
- Rewrite your poem by hand several times. Each time, try to write more and more of it from memory.
- Read your poem aloud before going to sleep at night, and repeat it when you wake up.
- Carry around a copy of your poem. You’ll find several moments throughout the day to reread or
- Practice your poem by saying it to family and friends.
6. Model recitation skills in the classroom.
With the class, develop a list of bad habits that take away from the performance, such as inaudible volume, speaking too quickly, monotone voice, fidgeting, overacting, and mispronunciations.
Then develop a list of elements of a successful recitation, such as sufficient volume, an appropriate speed with the proper pauses, voice inflection, evidence of understanding, correct pronunciation, and eye contact with the audience.
Recite poems yourself — this is a powerful way to show students it can be done.
7. Practice the poems.
Allow class time for students to practice their poems. Have each student practice with a different partner each session. Partners should offer constructive criticism, using the contest evaluation sheet and evaluation criteria as a guide.
8. Include creative writing exercises.
Creative writing is a natural complement to Poetry Out Loud. We offer a number of optional writing exercises and lesson plans for teachers.