Lesson Ideas: Interpreting Poetry Out Loud

A school group presenting poems in the parlor

Emily Dickinson’s Poetry lends itself well to oral interpretation in the classroom. Dickinson herself was known to have recited her poems to relatives while she worked in the Homestead pantry, and one of her earliest editors was convinced of her work’s value only after someone read them aloud to him.

Teachers have found that students respond well to learning a Dickinson poem and sharing it out loud with classmates.¬† Here are some approaches to help students share Dickinson’s poetry, and their knowledge of her life, aloud:

  • Have students work up an oral interpretation of one of Dickinson’s poems. How does this differ from just reading it aloud? What words will they need to emphasize? What is the ultimate point of the poem? Experiment with¬† several readings of the same poem. Compare how different students read the poem.
  • Have students create and perform a Readers’ Theater of Dickinson’s life, or some aspect of it that intrigues them. Perform it for others in the class or for another class.