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Lesson Plan

Speaking Poetry: Exploring Sonic Patterns Through Performance

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Speaking Poetry: Exploring Sonic Patterns Through Performance

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions (plus time for students to memorize and prepare their recitations)
Lesson Author

Eileen Murphy Buckley

Eileen Murphy Buckley

Chicago, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Having explored how Robert Hayden uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration to illustrate a complex relationship between a father and a son in "Those Winter Sundays," students engage in a variety of vocal activities and performance techniques based on word sounds. Students then prepare a recitation of the poem for small group performances and compare their interpretative choices as part of the reflection process.

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Close Reading Notes for "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden: Use this resource to help students understand how poets use sounds to develop characters and conflicts.

Getting Ready to Recite: Use this handout to help students explore sound and how different words can be "played" like instruments to convey different feelings or meanings.

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In Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom, John S. O'Connor observes that poetry is "too often taught as a solipsistic act: something to be done in private, with no regard for an audience beyond the poet" (8).  He argues for a performance based approach to teaching and experiencing poetry, offering "students the opportunity to celebrate language through a wide range of media, including the instrument of their own voices" (8""9).

Similarly, Lindsay Ellis, Anne Ruggles Gere, and L. Jill Lamberton note in their English Journal article, "[i]f one thinks of poetry as inherently oral-and we do-then it follows that this orality ought to shape the way we teach" (44).  This lesson asks students to engage with a poem as if it is a script for performance.  Recitation, after all, demands that readers embody the speaker of the poem and utter the words of the text in the way the way the speaker they have constructed in their critical imaginations might utter them.

Further Reading

O'Connor, John S. 2004. Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Read more about this resource


Ellis, Lindsay, Anne Ruggles Gere, and L. Jill Lamberton.  "Out Loud: The Common Language of Poetry." English Journal 93.1 (September 2003): 44-49.

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