Lesson Plan

Carl Sandburg's Performance Poetry

Clip art image of a person performing poetry slam.
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes

Essential Question

How important are the components of sound, rhythm and tone when reading expressively?


• Students will analyze how the structure of a poem contributes to its meaning.
• Students will determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings.
• Students will analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sound on a verse or stanza of a poem.
• I can use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.


The purpose of this lesson is to understand that poetry must be expressed to be understood well. The students will view performance poetry and then select a poem to act out for their class. Too often students study poetry on the page, missing the important components of sound, rhythm, and tone. This lesson  gives students the opportunity to select poems that appeal to them individually, memorize them, and perform their own expressive interpretations to be shared with others.


Upload the Carl Sandburg's Persuasion Poems as google slides, to push out to students remotely or use in the classroom. 


Download Carl Sandburg's Performance Poetry powerpoint


Procedure (Remote Learning)
Share the “Performance Poetry” PowerPoint with your students. The students will learn about Carl Sandburg and see examples of performance poetry. Then they will select a poem from the choices or a personal choice and video themselves performing the poem. 

Procedure (In Person)

Activating Strategy
Show students the “Performance Poetry” PowerPoint. Watch the video “Where to? What next?” to learn about Carl Sandburg’s poetry and hear examples of students sharing their poetry. (link on slide 3) 

  • What does Glenis Redmond tell you about Carl Sandburg’s poetry?
  • What do you notice about the way that the students share their poems?
Teaching Strategy
  • Show students a few of the videos PowerPoint (slide 4) of student performances.
    • What do the students notice about the performances?
    • How does the body language of the speaker help them to better understand the poem?
  • Show students the Carl Sandburg poems on slide 6-7, provide them with a teacher selected list of poems, or allow students to choose a poem that speaks to them to perform.
  • Allow students to practice performing their poem.
Summarizing Strategy
Students will perform their poem using body language and expression to help their classmates understand the message of the poem. 

* A valuable resource for any lesson or unit on poetry performance is the Poetry Out Loud website. Although the official contest is limited to high school students, the rubrics, lessons, and videos of actual student performances are easily adapted for use with middle school students. Visit www.poetryoutloud.org to preview its offerings and download a free teacher’s guide to successful incorporation of poetic performance in the classroom.

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Last updated: August 10, 2020