Popcorn Style Poetry Reading

There are several ways to read or introduce a poem to students, but I have found that popcorn style is one that gets many students involved.

The rules are simple.  Each student in the class has access to the poem: It’s in a book they all have, on the board, or projected.  You announce that you want it read “popcorn style” and simply say “Begin.”  Students just start reading it out loud.  When one is done reading what he or she wants to read, someone picks up from the next word.  Or not.  At times you will find a long gap (don’t fill it!).  Then, two or three voices will jump in at once and someone will yield.

Does “organic” sound too twee?

Of coure, the first time you do it you need to tell them the rules of the game.  You also might need to refine it.  Some teachers limit the number of lines, while, with some classes, I need to ask students to read AT LEAST a line (I have some jokers who read a word, and stop).  A discussion of limiting is a good one for classroom culture.  How often can someone participate, and what is keeping others from jumping in?

I have found that many students who do not like to read, do not like poetry, struggle with everyday reading… they like to jump in and try a line.  I get a diverse readership; not just the usual suspects.

When the students are done, I will often repeat the entire poem again for the dramatic effect.  Sometimes I will refrain from this, and instead talk about the poem with the kids.  In these cases, I save my repeat for when they are stuck and out of ideas.

Try it.  It will be weird at first, but then you’ll be using it for passages and other readings that need a bit of life blown into them.

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