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

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. This lesson is based on "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams; however, the strategy could be used with any poem.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
GLE 0801.2.5
Understand strategies for expressing ideas clearly and effectively in a variety of oral contexts.
GLE 0801.2.6
Deliver effective oral presentations.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning 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

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 


  • 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.

Helpful Hints

Materials and Technology:

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


  • Preparing for Your Performance handout
  • Thinking About Poetry Notes hangout
  • Thinking About Poetry handouot


  • In the Poet's Shoes Poetry Presentation Rubric
  • In the Poet's Shows WebQuest
  • In the Poet's Shoes Research and Class Presentation Rubric 
  • Rubistar
  • "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams