Performance Poetry for KS2

Listening to a poet perform their own poem is a magical experience. The words come alive. When it is not possible to organise for a poet to come in to school, use videos to inspire your children. These ideas for performance poetry can be adapted to fit with your topic. This particular poem is particularly suitable for Years 3 and 4 but the ideas can be adapted for use in Years 5 and 6 and Key Stage 1.

performance poetry in the classroom

To complete this activity you will need:

  • A video of the poet performing their own work.  There are some fantastic specialist sites; often the poets have their own sites. Some good ones are:

There are a lot of performance poetry videos on YouTube, but before using them you need to check you can play them at school without adverts or comments and watch them right to the end.  You may need to contact your network administrator to allow access, as often videos are actually hosted on YouTube even if you visit the poet’s own site!

  • For the rhyming warm up you need a set of pairs of rhyming words, one card per child.

Begin by watching a performance of a poem by the poet. I have chosen “Don’t” by Michael Rosen,  which is published in  ‘Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy’ by Michael Rosen, Bloomsbury Books.  ISBN 9780747587385

Play it through a couple of times. In pairs, talk about how Michael Rosen makes the poem come alive, animated face, gestures, movement, emphasising the rhyme, tone of voice, etc. Make a list to refer to later on.

Break the class up into small groups and give each group a copy of the poem. Give them a few minutes to work out how they are going to perform as a group and practice.

Get each group to team up with another group and show each other their performance. The groups provide feedback to each other, referring back to the list the class made.

Next move on to writing their own performance poem. Begin with some warm up exercises. As rhyming is an important part of this poem, these activities focus on rhyme.

 Poetry warm up exercises

  • Find my rhyme. Give each child a word; they then have to find the partner with the word that rhymes with theirs. They work with that partner for the rest of the warm ups.
  • Rhyming pairs. In pairs, play a simple game to generate lots of rhyming words. Partner 1 says a word and partner 2 has to say a word that rhymes with it. Write down both words, then swap roles.
  • Funny rhymes. Now each pair has a set of rhyming words, work together to make a funny line in the style of the poem.

Put the children into groups to write their own poem in the style of Don’t. They have a good bank of lines to start with, but make sure they realise they can change and adapt them to make them fit into the overall poem.


Extension ideas

  • Make sure you give children opportunities to practice the poem at other times; it is a useful 5 minute time filler.
  • In another session, allow children time to practice a performance of their new poem. Remind children of the ways Michael Rosen made his poem come alive.
  • Perform the poem in assembly or to another class.
  • Make a video of the children performing their poetry and share it on the school’s website or social media feed.
  • Write a poem to show what they have learnt in their topic work, for example a performance poem about the wives of Henry VIII.


Useful Poetry Resources

CLPE has a superb search engine you can use to find poems that suit your age group, theme and even the poetic devices used.

The Poetry Trust has produced a fantastic resource with lots of ideas for teaching poetry; THE POETRY TOOLKIT foolproof recipes for teaching poetry in the classroom.
Learning poetry by heart is specifically mentioned in the 2014 curriculum.  Teaching performance poetry to KS2 is a fun and enjoyable way to do this.  It also builds teamwork skills and enables less confident children to perform in front of an audience.

Learning outcomes

National Curriculum 2014 – English

Year 1 – Pupils should be taught to: develop pleasure in reading, motivation to read, vocabulary and understanding by: learning to appreciate rhymes and poems, and to recite some by heart

Year 2 – Pupils should be taught to:  develop pleasure in reading, motivation to read, vocabulary and understanding by: continuing to build up a repertoire of poems learnt by heart, appreciating these and reciting some, with appropriate intonation to make the meaning clear

Pupils should be taught to: develop positive attitudes towards and stamina for writing by: writing poetry

Year 3 & 4 – Pupils should be taught to:  develop positive attitudes to reading and understanding of what they read by: preparing poems and play scripts to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, volume and action

Year 5 & 6 – Pupils should be taught to: maintain positive attitudes to reading and understanding of what they read by:

  • learning a wider range of poetry by heart
  • preparing poems and plays to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone and volume so that the meaning is clear to an audience

This post was written By Sam Collins

Sam teaches in Devon, and has over 20 years experience in primary education teaching Early Years, KS1 and KS2.

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