Poetry can be contemplative and reflective but it can also be performed to an audience. Performed by an individual or, as in this activity, by a group. You’ll need a text or texts suitable for a group performance.
Students should be made aware of how they can orchestrate poems in various ways.
By varying the speed or pace, pitch, rhythm, mood of the poem. By varying the number of voices speaking at the same time. Or, by adding special effects, such as echo, overlapping lines, movements or sound effects.
What you do –
Students work in groups of three or more.
Distribute the texts, one per student and allow 15 minutes for discussion and planning of how the text will be performed. This will need to be monitored carefully.
Groups then rehearse their poems two or three times before they’re called to perform.
This activity is excellent for group bonding and team work, and even if you use the same poem you’ll be amazed at how different the interpretations are.
And finally here’s a poem that lends itself to group orchestration by the legendary Benjamin Zephaniah.
Monkeys are not doing it,
Snakes are not doing it,
Neither are beetles or fleas,
Lizards are not doing it,
Birds are not doing it,
They know that we need the trees,
Mice are not doing it,
Lice are not doing it,
Cats are not doing it,
Bats are not doing it,
I know who’s doing it,
Humans are killing the forest.
in Wicked World, by Benjamin Zephaniah
An activity we learnt from the excellent ‘Drama Techniques’ by Alan Maley and Alan Duff, published by Cambridge University Press.