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Poetry: Recitation Tips

8th gr Poetry

Starting and Finishing

Start your recitation with the title of the poem and the poet’s name:

“Heat” by Archibald Lampman  

"400: Coming Home"  by Dennis Lee

Then begin your recitation. Once you’ve finished your recitation, pause to let the poem settle over the audience, then walk away.


Tips from: 

Physical Presence

Establish a strong stage presence by practising the following:

  • good posture
  • comfortable, steady eye contact with the audience
  • confident body language


  • slouching
  • timid eye contact
  • nervous body language (fidgeting, shifting)


Evidence of Understanding

If you don’t understand your poem, neither will your audience.

  • Be sure you’re clear about the meaning of your poem. A great place to start is the poem’s page on our website, where you’ll find a list of the themes and poetic terms and forms used, as well as the poet’s biography.
  • Double-check that you understand any words that are new to you.
  • If you’re unclear on the meaning of a poem, you can’t recite it effectively. Research your poem and discuss it with your teacher. Once you understand your poem, you can craft your recitation accordingly.

Voice and Articulation

Use your voice to make the poem come alive for the audience. Make careful decisions about your volume and pacing:

  • Ensure your voice reaches the whole audience.
  • Proceed at a natural pace and accelerate or decelerate as needed.
  • Let your voice rise and fall with the poem.
  • Decide how long a pause to use for each punctuation mark.
  • Play with the line breaks of the poem (N.B.: Not all line breaks call for a pause).
  • Be sure to check your pronunciation with your teacher before you finalize your performance.


  • mispronouncing words
  • being too loud or too quiet
  • reciting too quickly or too slowly for the poem
  • reciting in a sing-song manner (particularly if you’re reciting a rhymed poem)
  • singing your poem (some of the poems in our anthology are also known song lyrics; be sure that your pacing is based on your understanding of the poem and doesn’t mimic the beats and measures of the song)

You’ll never be penalized for your natural accent; however, affected character accents are strongly discouraged.


When you recite, you’re more like a narrator than an actor. You need to convey the meaning and enhance the audience’s experience of the poem without acting it out.

  • Let the words of the poem do the emotional work during your recitation.
  • Depending on the poem, occasional gestures can be appropriate. If you’re uncertain about whether or not to include them, leave them out.


  • an overly emotional delivery style
  • distracting, excessive gestures or facial expressions

Recitation Rubric


Vocal variety refers to the way we use our voice.  It's a combination of elements: pitch, tone, volume, and rate.

1.  Clarity

Can you be heard and understood?

2.  Meaning

Can the listener understand the images and feelings of the poem?

3.  Speaking Rate

How fast or slow you speak alters the listener's perception/understanding.

Did you speak too fast?  Too slowly?  

4.  Voice

Too loud?  Too soft?  Too high?  Too Low?  

Recite it! Perform for an Audience

Dog Boy

What NOT to Do