Robin Williams and poetry

Who could resist poetry after watching Dead Poet’s Society? This wonderful, moving film shows what happens when a group of students find themselves inspired by their English teacher, played by Robin Williams.

He urges them to cast off an analytical approach to poetry, which attempts to measure the effectiveness of a poem using a graph, and think about the beauty of the words; how they make you feel.

If you haven’t seen the film, watch this memorable clip.

In this scene, he inspires a reluctant student to think creatively and find the poetic voice within him.

If you are teaching at secondary level, what better way to encourage students – especially boys – to consider poetry in a positive light?

And what can one say about Robin Williams? A truly great actor.

Can you think of any other movies which would encourage students to write, read or perform poetry? I’d be interested to hear from you.

 

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How to get your class to perform a poem

Performing poetry? Isn’t that a bit elitist? A teacher once said to me how performing poetry was very “public school”. How much farther from the truth could you get?
There is no better way to get children animated and excited about a poem than performing it. Here are a few tips:
1. Divide the poem into verses. Ask pairs or groups of children to perform (not read) their couple of lines.
2. Ask children to decide how to perform the lines. You could put these questions on the board:
Loud or quiet?
Fast or slow?
Serious or funny?
Silly voices or normal voices?
One voice at a time or everyone together?
Should you add actions or drama?
Do you need sound effects?
Which words should you exaggerate?
3. Move towards a smooth and powerful class performance. Film it, or edit parts together. Or create a sound picture of the poem by recording the audio with special effects.
4. Film it and put it on the school website.
5. Perform it for a parents’ assembly or in front of the rest of the school. If there’s a repeated chorus, get the whole school to join in.

There is an excellent website, called Perform-a-Poem, organised by Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, giving many tips on getting children to perform poetry. Do check it out! Here is a super example from the Perform-a-Poem website on how a poem can be performed.

Here are some CBBC stars performing poems:

Here is Michael Rosen performing Chocolate Cake:

Here are some children performing poetry. Your class could watch these and suggest how the performance could be improved.