American Literature: Romanticism
Student Presentation

Poetry reader / discussion leader

PowerPoint presentations (and other such programs) are discouraged. If you prefer to use PowerPoint (etc.), use only for materials not available on course website (e.g., for your own questions or summaries of your answers).

Do not copy and paste materials from course website into PowerPoint. Go directly to website for materials (e.g., text passages, instructor's discussion questions, objectives, etc.).

Student location: Student may work up-front or remain seated; instructor can help with computer-projector.

Length: 8-12 minutes for presentation; Discussion may continue indefinitely.

Responsibility: You're not responsible for knowing everything about your poem. You may present questions of your own and ask for help.


introduction / set-up


  • Announce author, title, date, basic info on author's life, place in history or course.

  • Preview themes, contexts, etc. in terms of course objectives.


  • Don't attempt complete coverage of poem's every possibility.

  • Don't focus on the author's biography or force the text to conform to external facts.

  • Don't spend too much time talking about anything before reading the poem.


  • Distribute paper copies of poem or use web projector. (Instructor may provide copies.)

presentation & "performance"

(order may vary)


  • Identify idea, theme, term, or course objective to be emphasized; preview discussion questions to be asked after poem is presented.

  • Read poem aloud

    • practice pronunciations, know terms (don't stop to ask; communicate before)

  • Review 2-3 passages, connect to interpretation


  • Don't read the poem flatly or haltingly--make it sing! give it rhythm! make it sound like it matters!

  • Don't talk too long after reading the poem—students are ready to discuss immediately but lose focus quickly if presenter keeps on.



  • Ask a question or questions to start discussion. Question(s) should follow from your interpretation or appeal broadly to challenges in the text, or to intertexts with other class readings. If webpage provides discussion questions, please introduce at least one of those questions for discussion. 

  • Lead discussion:. You may follow up or re-start discussion with follow-up questions as prepared.

  • Conclude discussion by highlighting major points from discussion  

Single biggest aid to a good discussion: Start discussion as soon as possible after reading the poem. After hearing and sharing the poem, the class is ready to jump in and discuss. Usually the only discussions that "die" are the ones where the students have to wait too long to start talking.

Next biggest aid to a good discussion: Don't save questions and discussion for end, but mix in questions and discussion as presentation proceeds.

More advice for successful presentation:

  • Mix discussion with your own analysis. Instead of telling class what you think, ask what they think, then add what they didn't say for you.

  • When in doubt, ask a question; when in doubt about what questions to ask, review objective(s) and terms.