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Kaye Lowe

Monitoring and Assessment

Four Resources Guideposts

First Steps Reading Developmental Continuum

Classroom Organisation

Engagement: Empowering Teachers with Successful Strategies

Poems for Multiple Voices provides an effective way for students to connect with poetry. Students are given responsibility for selecting a poem that is personally meaningful and that can be performed with a partner. The mode of presentation represents the combined interpretation of the poem in a personal and unique way.

In the presentation, the performers are made aware that every word counts and the message being communicated is condensed and lyrical. The poem is segmented according to thought units – single lines, words, stanza – and students are given license to add or repeat words for effect.

Partners discuss how the poem will be presented. Visual images, mood, and the language of the poem are examined. The performance presents a natural rhythm and intonation that enhances the meaningfulness and appreciation of the poem by the audience.

The partners rehearse the script prior to performing it and any assistance with unfamiliar words is provided at the time of need.

Engagement: Engaging Students in Purposeful Social Practices


Poems for Multiple Voices


A collection of anthologies, single poems collected from a variety of sources, songs, and short prose pieces

  • encourages students to make sense of texts using the four cueing systems
  • helps the reader connect with what is significant and important in own life
  • reinforces the elements of performance – expression, projection, intonation, pace and rhythm in oral reading
  • provides an opportunity for readers to take responsibility for sharing something that they enjoy and want to share with others
  • provides a model of effective communication – getting the message across with minimal words in an imaginative and creative manner
  • supports less confident readers through peer interaction and reaffirms that all learners can contribute
  • presents oral reading in a non-threatening way – readers control what is shared and how it is presented
  • exposes students to the language of poetry
  • provides opportunities for rehearsing the performance of the poem, allowing readers to gain confidence with the text
  • develops student awareness of the elements of poetry by making choices about how to segment the poem
  • interpretations students bring to the performance reflect their understandings and reinforce comprehension skills
  • engage students in many forms of poetry on a variety of topics
  • bridge the world of poetry to own experiences, cultural understandings and feelings


Harris, R. & McFarlane, P. (Eds.). (1985). A Book to Perform Poems By. Adelaide: AATE.

Harris, R. (Ed.). (1993). Take A Chance: An Anthology of Performance Poetry. Adelaide: AATE.

Texts online

Especially for Teachers – Resources

Four Roles/Resources of the Reader

Based on the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader developed by Freebody and Luke (1990), Poems for Multiple Voices involves students in the following repertoire of purposeful social practices:

Code breaker

Decoding the codes and conventions of written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • transfers written text into oral text
  • interprets words and associated meanings and incorporates these into a performance
  • models good oral reading skills using expression and intonation
  • attempts to engage an audience in their performance and an interpretation of a text
  • shares knowledge and understanding of words, metaphors and visual images created in poetry
  • becomes familiar with the language of poetry

Text user

Understanding the purposes of different written, spoken and visual texts for different cultural and social functions, eg:

  • selects poems that are culturally relevant and experience related
  • listens to and shares in interpretations of poems with others
  • reads a variety of poems to identify what appeals to the reader while considering the audience
  • selects a poem for the enjoyment of others
  • uses individual interpretations of the message of a poem to enhance performance
  • rehearses oral presentation with the assistance of a partner

Text participant

Comprehending written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • comprehends poetry by sharing multiple interpretations that relate to images and feelings
  • interprets texts through performance
  • uses prior knowledge to comprehend selected poems

Text analyst

Understanding how texts position readers, viewers and listeners, eg:

  • considers how words and images create moods and feelings in the reader and the audience
  • recognises that reading is an interpretative process
  • explores the aesthetic aspects of poetry and the effects on reader and audience
  • shapes audience response to the poem through performance
  • sees reading as a personal endeavour that can contribute to the enjoyment of others

Four Resources Guideposts

Poems for Multiple Voices Guideposts provide a useful assessment tool.

Implementing the Strategy

Poems for Multiple Voices involves reflecting on and performing poetry. In pairs, students creatively segment a poem that can be read aloud. The way in which the poem is pieced back together and consequently performed should reflect the partners’ interpretation and perception of the poem. The focus is on enjoying the allure of poetry while incorporating a personal response.

Students select a poem and read it aloud until they are familiar with it. They are instructed to read it until they can visualise and feel it. Less confident readers are supported in their reading by reading with their partners. Students then have to decide how to perform the poem so that the mood and sentiments of the poem are evident. The partners negotiate the presentation so that both voices are heard either individually or in partnership at different times throughout the poem.


Make available a wide selection of anthologies and individual poems. Ask students to collect poems.


  1. Advise students of the purpose of this activity. Explain that they are to read through a number of poems with a partner. The intention is to discover one poem that appeals to both of them.
  2. Give students ample time to explore the poetry collection. In pairs, students read poems to each other until they jointly agree on one that appeals to both of them.
  3. Students reread the selected poem a number of times.
  4. Students then discuss the selected poem. They discuss how they could present the poem by reading segments individually and together. The intention is to make the poem enjoyable for the audience while conveying the meaning in an effective manner.
  5. Partners make multiple copies of the poem. The poem is arranged visually on a piece of paper to show how the poem is to be read by the two readers. The paper could be divided into three columns with the segments to be read by each reader placed in specific columns. The segments to be read together could be placed in the middle column. Readers use the script for their performance.

Reader 1


Reader 2

















Rehearse the poem taking into consideration the following:

  • Respect the mood of the poem. Get clear about the message being conveyed and how reading aloud must be true to the sentiments being expressed.
  • Read slowly enough to reinforce the images and invite the audience in. Think carefully about how the poet made use of lines, spaces, and format to represent a particular meaning.
  • Rehearse until the poem is so familiar that it can be read without pausing between Readers 1 and 2. For continuity sake, it is important that there is a natural flow between readers.
  • Use appropriate voices so that the poem is prioritised – not the performance.
  • Relate to the audience by establishing eye contact.
  • Celebrate the power of the meaning being conveyed and enjoy the experience.
  • Have a Poetry Fest or schedule pairs to perform over a period of days rather than in one setting.
An example of a straightforward poem where expression and tone can be used effectively to reflect individual interpretation.

How to hang up the telephone by Delia Ephron

‘Are you still there?’
‘Are you?’
‘Yeah. Why didn’t you hang up?’
‘Why didn’t you?’
‘I was waiting for you.’
‘I was waiting for you. You go first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘OK, I know. I‘ll count to three and we’ll both hang up at the same time. Ready? One, two, three. ‘Bye.’
‘Are you still there?’
‘Why didn’t you?’
‘What do you mean, me?’
‘OK, do it again. This time for real. One, two, two and a half, two and three quarters, three. ‘Bye.’
‘Are you still there?’


Fleischman, P. (1988). Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices. NY: Harper Trophy.

Pappas, T. (1991). Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices. NY: Wide World Pub.

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