I've previously shared some ideas about Introducing Poetry to Kids and discussed Reading and Writing Poetry with Elementary School Kids. With Poetry Month coming in April, today I'd like to focus on some tips for Performing Poetry with Kids.
I like to make performance part of everyday life. My family tells me that's because I'm a drama queen! But it's more than that. By reading aloud to each other, re-telling stories, and declaiming poems, we're helping our children develop vitally important oral communication skills. These are skills they need not just for school, but for real life, and they are highly prized by employers. At the same time, children are internalizing the rhythms and nuances of the English language.
So how do we find opportunities for performing poetry with our kids? It's important to start where our kids are. If they love a particular rhyming picture book, and have heard it read aloud multiple times, it's likely they'll enjoy reciting parts of it for Grandma. If our older children are making snow forts, performance poetry may take the form of war cries and chants. When kids want to play shops, and ask for our help in selling things, we can suggest making up an advertising jingle together, and practice it aloud.
Experiencing poetry being performed can be so motivational for kids. You can often find poetry slams, either in real life or via videos. Look out for videos where poets like Michael Rosen perform -- his We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a great example to share with your kids.
Youngsters who have had poetry read to them, and even performed for them, may have a favorite poem they'd like to perform. Help them decide on an audience and how to present the poem. They might like to have themselves recorded on a video camera or recording app. The resulting files can be sent to relatives and friends who don't live close by. Kids might like to add a costume, props, and sound effects to their performance -- there are so many creative ideas they'll have once they get started! If children don't have a favorite poem, they can choose one from resources like Giggle Poetry's Poetry Theatre list. Why not make it a whole family or neighborhood activity with everyone invited to perform a favorite poem.
When coaching kids for performance, I concentrate on the basics first. Does the child understand the poem? Is the voice able to be heard clearly? Does it alter in pitch, pace, and volume to enhance the poem? Does the young performer move naturally to bring the poem to life and engage eye contact? Poetry is like music -- the more you practice, the better the performance. But I believe enjoyment of poetry is crucial, so when kids have had enough, it's time to stop.
I have a special place in my heart for all the poetry I've performed in my life. It's helped me internalize wonderful language, great rhythm and rhyme, and important themes. It's also given me so much delight and comfort over the years. I very much believe in learning poetry by heart, and repeated practice for performance is one way to do this. At the very least, it helps kids develop reading fluency, but the benefits to children's hearts and minds are incalculable.
Do you include poetry for performance in your family life? What poems do your kids love? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.