Reading Lesson 5: How to Read Poetry Aloud—Paying Attention to Line Breaks and White Space
• Poetry anthologies and copies of poems at a variety of reading levels for independent reading (see Reading Resources in Unit at a Glance)
• Student copies of three short poems they are not familiar with and one of the poems cut into word strips and arranged in pocket chart with wording in order, but different line breaks and white space
Students hear and read poetry aloud to learn how line breaks and white space determine poems’ meanings, rhythms, and sounds.
• Understand poetry elements, including word choice, rhythm, rhyme, imagery, metaphor, and visual design.
• Create mental images to understand literary language and deepen comprehension.
Looking at the class chart “What Is Poetry?” point out how students already realize that white space and line breaks are essential poetry elements. Tell them line breaks and white spaces are as basic to poems as paragraphs are to prose. Discuss how many poems are arranged in lines and how poets decide on line lengths.
Today we look deeper at the power of line breaks and white space. Remind students what they learn today will help them become better poetry writers.
Teaching and Active Engagement
With the poem’s words in original order, direct students’ attention to the poem in the pocket chart. Ask volunteers to read the poem aloud, thinking of possible meaning and rhythms they hear. Then, with the poem’s words remaining in original order, ask for student input on rearranging the line breaks.
Ask volunteers to read the poem again with the new arrangement. Discuss how line breaks affect the poem’s meaning. Repeat the process with new line breaks, then read and discuss how the new line breaks affected the poem. Finally, show students the poet’s version of the poem and read aloud. Talk about how poets decide line lengths to influence meaning and sounds.
However, by using appropriate language-level poems and taking time learners to experience the effects of different poetry arrangements, this lesson can be very effective in developing the “ears” of budding poets and poetry readers.
Students experiment with line breaks for at least one of the two other poems you chose. Direct them to first read the poem aloud, softly to themselves, to hear the poem’s sound and rhythm. Next, ask them to rewrite the poem with line breaks and white space that make sense to them.
Independent and Small Group Time
• Students read from poetry books and/or teacher-selected poems.
• Confer with individual students and/or provide small group instruction.
• Group students who worked on the same poems in pairs or small groups.
• Ask them to show and read their poems and explain their thinking about the line breaks and white space.