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Lesson Plan #:AELP-LIT0024
Submitted by: Pamela Smith
School or Affiliation: Stockbridge High School Date: June 25, 1998

Grade Level(s): 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Language Arts/Literature


Performing a poem is the best way to move students from literal interpretations to figurative interpretations of literature.For many students, it is difficult to begin to think in abstract ways. Students need to learn to open their minds in order to survive in and appreciate the world in which they live. This lesson is intended to be taught after classroom community has been established and students have a basic understanding of poetry terms.


Students will be able to:

1. Understand the importance of contributing ideas to a group in order to feel connected and proud of a group presentation.
2. Describe the differences between literal and figurative interpretations.
3. Identify characteristics of a quality performance.

Duration: Four 55-minute sessions

Essential Resources:

chalk board, classroom set of one poem, group sets of several poems (groups should be made up of 3-5 students and each group will need two different sets of poems), a large space (outside, cafeteria, library, etc.

Activities and Procedures:

Day One

1. Give each student a copy of The Circle by Nancy Wood. Students should work individually on completing the following tasks using the poem:

Briefly explain the story that this poem tells.
Describe the speaker of this poem.
Create a statement of theme for this poem.
List the literary devices that are used in this poem.
Finish these sentences: This poem reminds me of…
The speaker of this poem most wants…

2. Try to get as many students as possible to discuss their responses. Sum up the discussion with a statement of the fact that all readers interpret poetry in a different way depending on their own life experiences. Explain that their oral contributions helped others in the class see the deeper meaning of the poem.

3. Explain to students that they will now get into groups to complete the same tasks with a new poem. Stress the importance of contributing ideas since the group is responsible for finding the deepest meaning of the poem.

4. Students work in groups of 3-5 on responses to their group’s poem. Each group has a different poem and each member is holding a copy of that poem. One person should be recording responses.

Day Two

1. Show students on the overhead the definition of and your objectives for performance poetry. Also, show them these scoring areas: a) All members use at least one of the following: body, voice, space of the room. b) No member shall do anything to ruin their or anyone else’s performance. c) All members shall speak clearly. d) The performance interprets the poem in a nonliteral way.

Tell students that they will have one practice performance and one graded performance.

2. Take students to a large space and give each a copy of The Circle. Use the entire class to perform the poem in a nonliteral way. In other words, do not act out the buffalo in its grave literally like a play. Use the performer’s voices, their bodies, and the space of the area. Tell students what to do and don’t stop performing until they have done it perfectly all the way through.

3. The follow-up discussion should include students responses to how their earlier responses were reflected in the performance, how they would have performed the poem, and the difference between this performance and a more literal performance.

4. Students should practice their own performance of yesterday’s poem using their group response to the poem.

Day Three

1. Students practice their performance and make it perfect to perform in front of the class. The class is reminded of the 4 scoring areas.

2. Each group performs and the class critiques each performance based on the 4 areas. Provide a summary of positive and negative characteristics of the class performances.

3. Give each group a new poem to work on for a grade.

Day Four

1. Groups practice the performances until just enough time is left for the performances. Groups perform and the teacher or the the teacher and students grade them. The score sheet should have each scoring area with a rating system next to it:

2. All members used at least one of the following: body, voice, space.

  1      2     3     4      5      6
strongly agree agree disagree strongly disagree

and so on…

Useful Internet Resource:
* Poetry Evaluations