Six Reasons to Recite Poetry

Only two weeks into my poetry recitation challenge in a Title I school, I cannot walk across the playground without a student stopping me to share a poem.

“Be forewarned. Reciting poetry is contagious.”

In an unscheduled visit to one fifth grade classroom, I arrived to see students out of their seats raising hands to be the first to recite poems. They had begged the teacher to let them take their poems home for spring break, and were back on the second day after vacation excited to share poetry.

Another teacher told me that after I recited poetry for her class to launch the recitation challenge, a girl who lived in foster care and had been struggling to connect academically and socially approached her with pride after recess.

“Ms. G*,” she exclaimed, “I wrote a poem!”

In a Special Day Class, my recitation of poetry inspired kids and their teachers to pour over poetry books all afternoon. Every child in the class found a poem to love, memorize and share.

Be forewarned. Reciting poetry is contagious.

Six Reasons to Recite Poetry

  1. Fluency: Memorizing poetry is a powerful way to build reading fluency. Students engage in multiple readings with a purpose. In preparing to recite a poem, they practice prosody and expression for reason. See this article by Timothy Rasinski.
  2. Personalization: Celebrate the diversity of poetry and of your students by encouraging choice. Show students that poems come in every length, tone, topic, and style. Help students pursue their interests to find poems that excite them.
  3. Confidence: Reciting a poem is a great way to practice the projection and posture of public speaking without the added pressure creating the words to say. Watch Amy Cudy’s TED Talk for inspiration on the power of posture for confidence, and practice “fake it till you make it” when you recite.
  4. Language: Memorizing the language of a poem helps you taste new word choices and syntax on your tongue. Recitation helps English language learners, and all aspiring poets, stretch the bounds of their own language use.
  5. Empathy: When we embody a poem, we see the world through another writer’s eyes. We learn to listen, deeply, to a voice that is not our own.
  6. Celebration: April is National Poetry Month. Join the fun by reading, writing, enjoying and reciting poetry!

Links for Educators:


Practice Fluency with Poetry – Blog with excellent links for educators.

Why I Force My Students to Memorize Poetry by teacher Andy Wadell.

Poems and Instructional Resources:

NCTE Awards for Excellence in Poetry for Children – Links to great poetry.

The Power of Poetry — Reviews of books for kids from the International Literacy Association.

Bilingual Poetry Books by Francisco Alarcón

Diverse Poetry Books for Kids – Blog with book reviews.

21 Poems to Share With Children – PreK-12 classics.

Tony Mitton’s Top Ten Poems to Memorize and Recite

With a Little Help from Dr. Angelou – Resources for Teaching African-American Poetry from The Poetry Foundation.

Poetry Out Loud Database – Essential resource for high school classrooms.

Learning Recitation Video Series – Inspirational examples by secondary students to teach recitation via Poetry Out Loud.

*Note: Names of teachers and students have been changed.

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What are your favorite reasons and resources for reciting poetry?

Which poem will you memorize today?


I am a keynote speaker, author and educational leader helping educators teach and lead for equitable schools. My books include EL Excellence Every Day, Breaking Down the Wall & Opening Doors to Equity. I'm a descendant of colonizers and enslavers deeply committed to transforming my family legacy for healing.

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