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Oral Interpretation and Analysis of Poetry
Your task is to select a quality poem for analysis and interpretation. Here are the steps of the process:
- Select a poem from a poetry book or online. Here are some suggested poets: Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, E. E. Cummings, May Swenson, William Shakespeare, Robert Lowell, Amy Lowell, John Greenlief Whittier, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Bly, Elizabeth Bishop, W.H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Langston Hughes, Seamus Heaney. There are many other good poets, but please get them approved by me. Select at least 20 lines of poetry (one poem or combine several shorter ones).
- Practice reading the poem aloud. Look up words you don’t understand. Try to get the appropriate phrasing of the poem and to establish the right mood and tone with your voice.
- Prepare an introduction to the poem, just as you would for any speech. The introduction should say something about the theme or topic of the poem. For example, if the poem is about autumn, you could say, “Picture a crisp and sunny autumn day—the leaves are turning shades of red and gold and you can feel a cool breeze on your skin. Robert Frost uses such a day as the setting for his poem, ______.” Or if the poem is about friendship, you could say, “Friends are a special part of life. We all want to be able to count on our friends. In ______’s poem ______, she tells us a story about a special friendship.” Try not to ask if “Have you ever” or “do you ever” question for the introduction.
- Prepare an analysis of the poem. Explain what you think the poet is communicating, and point out literary elements such as imagery, figurative language, sound devices, irony, etc. Conclude by restating the theme and/or impact of the poem.
- You may play a song and analyze song lyrics with a similar theme or some other connection to the traditional poem. Be sure the song is appropriate for school, and present the lyrics on an overhead transparency (available for ten cents in the IMC) or on copies to be distributed.
- A visual is not required for this speech, but it can always enhance the presentation.
About this Document
Directions for students to present an oral reading and brief interpretation of a poem. This is a beginning activity for students who have little experience speaking in front of a class.