Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Poetry Out Loud

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Recording or live computer link of poetry read aloud
  • Print-outs of the poems to be heard
  • DVD or CD player or computer with Internet connection
  • Poetry anthologies suitable for youth (see Find Out More for suggestions)
  • Paper and pencils or computer and printer for writing during the workshop
  • Newsprint and markers

Preparation for Activity

  • Locate recordings of poetry that are suitable for youth. Include a diversity of authors and styles. The youth section of the library is a good place to start. Librarians may be on hand to give you suggestions. The Library of Congress Poetry website has recorded poetry. The books The Spoken Word Revolution and The Spoken Word Redux, edited by Mark Eleveld (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2003 and 2007) contain the text and CD recordings of poems. Locate the recordings first, then find the printed work, as not all printed poems will be available on live recordings. Another resource is writers in your congregation, who might be thrilled to help pick material for this workshop. Preview both recordings and written poems provided by writers in your congregation.
  • Set up the computer or CD or DVD player where all participants can see and hear.
  • Cue up the first poem.

Description of Activity

Participants listen to or watch a recording of poetry read aloud, silently read the printed text of the same poems to themselves, and then compare the experiences.

Provide a context for the poetry participants will hear/see: Where was it recorded? Who is the poet? Who was the audience? Ask participants to observe their own reactions as audience members, such as how the poetry reading makes them feel, so they can share their responses at the end of the exercise.

Play the recording. Then hand out the printed text of the poem and ask participants to read the poem silently to themselves. When they are finished reading, play the recording for a second time. Repeat the process for two to four different poems.

Using these questions as prompts, lead a discussion about how voiced poetry differs from poetry on the printed page:

  • How does hearing a poem in the presence of other people differ from reading it silently to yourself? Which did you prefer and why?
  • Do certain kinds of poems lend themselves to reading aloud? What features does a poem need to be a good candidate for reading aloud?
  • Do certain words jump out at you when you listen to a poem? By contrast, what makes you notice certain words when you read a poem?
  • When someone reads or performs the poem aloud, what makes for good delivery of the poem? Is a highly dramatic rendering inherently better than a simple reading or not? Does it depend on the poem?

Encourage participants to keep their observations about spoken poetry in mind as they prepare a Poetry Slam for an audience.

Including All Participants

At the beginning of the activity, ask participants if the sound level is high enough. Often it is difficult for people with hearing impairments to speak up and ask for greater volume. By asking the question, you provide the space for that request to happen.