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

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