The Secret to Creating Interest in Poetry Reading

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Poetry reading of The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe
Narrative poems for kids in their tweens and above.

Halloween is perfect to reveal this secret to creating interest in poetry. With a great poem for kids from Edgar Allan Poe and the poetry reading of his Gothic poem The Raven.  This classic poem, often read on Halloween nights, leaves much to talk about after it’s read by the candle light that flickers by your side. This one simple secret will make your afternoon playful and constructive. This is a popular poem for  kids especially those preteens!

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, . . .”

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven
The narrator and the raven

What is it about the poem, The Raven?  Edgar Allan Poe wrote at least 70 poems if not more. So why is The Raven the poem that clings to our thoughts engaging the reader and has the listener absorbed?  

The opening sets the mood and is relatelable.  The sense of a dark cloudy night, you can see yourself sitting in a soft overstuffed chair thinking about a book you are reading and slowly dozing off.  If you read at all I am sure you have had this experience. I don’t know about you but Mr. Poe has brought me into the poem. I can almost smell the damp.

He continues telling us it was a “bleak December” and shares that his

“books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Nameless here for evermore.”  

Mr. Poe has captured that sensitive part of the reader.  Truly a characteristic of the Dark Romantic movement.

What is the Dark Romantic Movement

Real quick,  the Dark Romantic movement fell between the 1840’s and 1860’s and is a subgenre of the Romantic movement. Also known as the American Renaissance.  Mr. Poe was not alone in this genre. His fellow American authors were the ever popular Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving.  Other literary favorites are Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker from England.


Preparing for the Poetry Reading

  • You will read the poem aloud to yourself a few times to get familiar with it and hear the rhythm of words. You might write down the stanzas that you like. This method allows you to focus on the performance verses risking stumbling through the words and loosing the meaning of the poetry.
  • It is important to THINK about the lines and the punctuation.  Sometimes, a poem will not have punctuation but the line ends. This is when you want a “pause”.  If you have read the poem a few times already you will have an understanding of the break and will be able give the right emphasis.  When the poet has used punctuation, read it as the punctuation tells you too. When you see a comma, pause for at least 1 second. A new stanza you will pause longer at about 3 seconds.  
  • Remember not to rush through your reading of The Raven.  This is a NARRATIVE POEM, share the story with emotion. Have fun with this CREEPY tale and take this opportunity to be dramatic.

Setting the Scene

When my son was around 8 years old he took a class and his teacher was amazing!  The class was called Tropical Rainforest. The first day she had created a rainforest tunnel. As we walked into the classroom we were surrounded by vines dangling from the ceiling and tropical palms jutting out from the side walls.  The sounds of the insects and tropical rainforest animals came from all directions while an occasional mist of water fell upon us. I wasn’t “taking” her class but she had me excited about what she was teaching. That is what you want to do, get your children excited about poetry.  

Let’s start with music.  Music has the ability to create the mood for what you are experiencing.  I like this example:

But you don’t have to use music to set the mood.  Sound effects work just as well if not better to bring the listener in to the poem you are reading.

The sounds of rain during a thunderstorm as the fire crackles.

Other Senses

Surround yourself, where you will be reading the poetry, with lighting that will give you the effect you are looking for.  Placing flickering candles or a hurricane lamp by your side as you read can give historical context while  Jack-O-Lanterns work well to create a Halloween mood.

Adding scented candles such as pumpkin, spiced apple, and cinnamon to name a few, are great choices to bring in another element. There are many options with essential oils too.  Some companies have blends like Harvest Moon from Plant Therapy. 

You definitely need your friend, The Raven, which you can buy at the Dollar Store and set them on your bookcase, chair and sofa.    Of course what is a poetry reading with out warm cozy blankets and a cup hot chocolate.

After the Reading

Since you are already wrapped in your cozy blankets and feeling warm and maybe not so fuzzy after reading The Raven, begin asking introspective questions and share those thoughts.

  1. What does the character, the narrator, want or hope for?
  2. What does he fear?  Or does he?
  3. What do you think his voice sounds like?
  4. What were the most interesting parts?
  5. What verses stand out to you?
  6. How do you see the narrator’s life?  Is he young, old, rich, poor?
  7. What parts of the poem can you relate to?

By sharing your own insights of The Raven with your children you are giving them examples without saying “here are examples”.  These questions will help your children analyze the poem. It is important to recognize their statements as being “good”.  You can ask them more questions to help them dig deeper but do not push where this time together has become “a lesson”.  This is not a the time for correction.  You are creating interest in poetry.

Just for Fun

Traditionally in our home school we will create a drawing a day or two after the reading.  It is a good idea for you to practice this and then share how drawing the raven is sooo easy.  

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