Performing a poem

Learning focus

To show understanding of a poem by learning parts off by heart.

This lesson includes:

  • one video about memorising
  • one video of poet Benjamin Zephaniah performing his poem Clever Trevor
  • four activities


You might have memorised and performed a poem in class before. This is called learning a poem ‘off by heart’.

It’s a great way to really show you understand the poem and have some fun sharing it with other people!

It’s not always easy though. Watch this short clip for some tips on how to memorise a poem effectively.

Learn some tricks to help you remember a poem more easily.

Memorising a poem requires focus and practice, but there are things you can do that help.

  • Remember the story the poem is telling.

  • Focus on the rhythm of the poem.

  • Look at the rhyming words used in the poem.

  • Think of actions or images that could go with each line.

Watch the following clip, in which Benjamin Zephaniah performs his poem Clever Trevor from memory.

Listen carefully as you will be having a go at memorising part of this poem too!

Benjamin Zephaniah starts reading at 00:11 in the clip.

Watch Benjamin Zephaniah perform 'Clever Trevor'.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Think about how Benjamin Zephaniah performed his poem, then answer these questions.

You could write your answers down on paper, discuss them with someone else, or just think about them.

1. What did you like about Benjamin Zephaniah’s performance? Why?

2. What do you notice about how he says the words in the poem?

3. Will you copy anything that Benjamin Zephaniah did when you perform this poem?

4. What do you notice about the rhythm and rhyme in this poem? Do you think this made it easier or harder to remember the poem?

Activity 2

Listen carefully to the first part of Clever Trevor again, between 00:11 and 00:21 in the clip.

Try to imagine the scene that Benjamin Zephaniah is describing.

On a piece of paper, draw pictures of the images that come into your head when you hear this part of the poem.

Your pictures can be whatever you see in your mind, so be as creative as you want!

Activity 3

Now you're going to try to memorise the first part of the poem!

Listen to the section you heard in Activity 2 once more, and then repeat the lines back to yourself out loud. Do this in bits, pausing every few words, so that you don't give yourself too much to remember each time.

Keep doing this until you can say all of the lines in the first part of the poem without needing to check.

There are things you can do to make this easier:

  • Think about the story the poem is telling. Your images from Activity 2 should help with this.

  • Focus on the rhythm of the poem.

  • Think about the rhyming words used, such as 'soul' and 'goal'.

  • Think of actions to go with each line.

For example, you could wave your arms and fists around in the air, as though you're cheering!

Top tip!

  • Remember to take your time and keep practising - memorising takes time and focus!

Activity 4

Now have a go at performing this part of the poem from memory.

You could perform it for someone at home, or to yourself in front of a mirror. You could even ask an adult at home to video it and then you could show your poetry performance to some of your friends or your teacher.

Make sure you get permission from an adult before you film yourself though.

See if you can perform all the lines in the first part of the poem without needing to check!

Top tips!

  • Stand up straight and face forward.
  • Speak clearly and say each word carefully.
  • Don’t rush!
  • Change your speed and volume as you are performing. Changing from slow to quick and loud to quiet can make your performance more dramatic!

Where next?

In this lesson you have learned how to show understanding of a poem by learning parts off by heart.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you understand poetry.

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