In the Poet's Shoes: Performing Poetry and Building Meaning

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Four 30-minute sessions to review poetry and complete the analysis; five 20-minute sessions to prepare for the presentation
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Through the use of dramatic reading and the exploration of Internet resources, sixth through eighth grade students build a greater understanding of poetry and the poet's voice. Further, the experience requires students to analyze and develop their own interpretation of a poem's meaning and representation through performance. Extension activities involve students giving an oral poetry performance of their own poetry.

From Theory to Practice

  • Drama is a useful tool in developing affect in readers; it creates interest and motivation.

  • Drama provides the opportunity for students to develop fluency through the repeated reading of a text selected for performance.

  • Through drama, students develop a deeper understanding of text because it requires them to determine emphasis and interpretation.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

Poetry Out Loud by Robert A. Rubin. (Algonquin Books, 1996)




1. Begin by previewing the WebQuest In the Poet's Shoes. Depending on the age and ability of your students, you may want to limit the number of websites or poems that they explore. Worksheets can also be modified to meet your students' abilities.

2. Review the two rubrics provided for evaluation of the students' Poetry Presentation and Research and Class Participation. Consider using the Rubistar website to create an evaluation rubric specific for students' work on the Internet.

3. Prepare several poems on overhead or as handouts to read aloud with your students. Poetry Out Loud is an excellent source. You will also need to prepare two overheads of "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams—one in paragraph form and one in its original poetry form.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Analyze a variety of poems from a variety of online resources

  • Compare the concrete similarities and differences of several poems

  • Build connections between personal experience and literature

  • Analyze the elements a poet uses to develop meaning

  • Explore and develop an understanding of audience, speaker, narrator, and writer

  • Analyze mood and theme

  • Explore the impact spoken language has on meaning

  • Use dramatic voice and expression

  • Evaluate their own performance and the performance of others based on a specific evaluation rubric

Instruction & Activities

1. Begin by displaying a copy of William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow," written out in paragraph form. Have students read the paragraph aloud. Next, explain to students that in poetry each line is a unit of meaning. Tell them that the words a writer uses at the end of each line are specifically chosen to build meaning. Then, display a copy of the same poem in its original form. Again, ask students to read the poem aloud. Discuss how its meaning is affected by the way in which the poem is written.

Display several poems on an overhead and engage students in a shared reading of the poems. Read them several times in a variety of ways, placing the emphasis on different words and lines within the poem or reading with a variety of loud and soft expressions. Discuss with students how the reading of the poems affects their meaning.

2. Next, have students complete the In the Poet's Shoes WebQuest. Begin by reading the directions together. Explain to students that they will be using the Internet to evaluate a variety of poets and select a favorite poem. At this time, ask students if they have a favorite poem or poet that they would like to explore. (Note that Shel Silverstein is not included on any of the websites). Encourage students who do not have a favorite poem or poet to ask their parents or grandparents for a suggestion. This is also helpful for students who are overwhelmed by the number of poets at each website. Remind students that although a particular poet may appear on more than one website, they are required to view each poet only once.

3. Have students complete the Thinking About Poetry handout and the Thinking About Poetry Notes handout as they work on the Internet. These handouts are linked directly to the WebQuest for students to print.

4. After students have completed the WebQuest and the two Thinking About Poetry handouts, ask them to submit one copy of the poem that they selected for their performance with a one-paragraph explanation for why they selected that poem (see WebQuest for further directions).

5. Direct students to print a copy of the Preparing for Your Performance handout (also linked to the Webquest). Allow students time in class or for homework to use this handout to prepare for their presentation. As students prepare, give them time in class to rehearse their performance and to work with peers on meaning and interpretation. Also consider having students tape record themselves reading the poem so that they can hear their performance and practice varying tone, voice, and emphasis.

6. Set aside a day for the performance. Set the mood by covering desks with butcher or art paper. Ask students to illustrate their favorite lines of the poem and display their drawings around the room. If possible, invite the students' parents.


  • Students choose one vocabulary word and illustrate it to show its meaning.

  • Students write and perform their own poems for the class.

  • Students illustrate lines in a poem to visualize meaning or particular images used in the poem.

  • Choose selections from Poetry Out Loud to read by stanza in a call-and-response manner. Begin by reading one stanza and having a student respond by reading the next stanza. Continue going back and forth between stanzas. Then, have students write their own poems that can be read in a call-and-response manner.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Teacher assessment for this lesson will take the form of two evaluation rubrics:

1.  In the Poet's Shoes Research and Class Participation Rubric

2.  In the Poet's Shoes Poetry Presentation Rubric

  • Use a separate evaluation rubric and an essay response for student's self-assessment. Self-assessment should focus on student's understanding of the poem, his or her interpretation of its meaning, and an evaluation of the performance.

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