Reading poems out loud for two or more voices
So much educational practice is about fashion and buzzwords. Relatively little is about innovation. Most ‘new’ ideas are reworking of old ones. Adaptation is one the most useful skills to develop as a teacher. Activities and approaches may become outdated but that doesn’t always mean they are fundamentally flawed. The rush to do something new and take as a starting point the rejection of whatever came before is a foolish policy. Reading poetry out loud might seem to belong to the kind of rote learning quite rightly seen as passive and pointless, but when we read a text written with close attention to the choice of words and their relation through image or sound, much more than rote learning takes place. Deciding how to read involves decisions about meaning, nuance, emphasis, voice and volume. By making this a collaborative activity students go deeper into these questions than if they worked alone. If an element of performance is then added, we have the ingredients of a highly effective lesson. The following guidelines can be a adapted to different ages and levels.
- Choose a number of poems – one for each group of 2 – 4 students.
- Explain to students that they are going to perform the poem. Everyone should read and they should try and combine individual voices and voices in unison. Their reading should aim to make the poem interesting for listeners, to do this, talk about the importance of varying volume and emphasizing certain words or lines.
- The students work on their poems in groups before performing them for the whole class. You can have a class vote on the best one.
Example poem for four voices:
V1,V2,V3,V4, ALL – voices
Underlined word – stressed
P – pause
This is the Key of the Kingdom (All)
This is the key of the kingdom. (All)
In that kingdom there is a city. V1
In that city there is a town. V2
In that town there is a street. V3
In that street there is a lane. V4
In that lane there is a yard. V1 and V2
In that yard there is a house. V3 and V4
In that house there is a room. V1
In that room there is a bed. V2
On that bed there is a basket. V3
In that basket there are some flowers. V4 P
(crescendo as the next part is read)
Flowers in a basket, V1 and V2
Basket on the bed, V3 and V4
Bed in the room, V1 and V2
Room in the house, V3 and V3
House in the yard, V1 and V2
Yard in the lane, V3 and V4
Lane in the street, V1
Street in the town, V2
Town in the city, V3
City in the kingdom. V4P
Of that kingdom this is the key. (All)