Compose to Poetry

Students will select two contrasting poems (contrasting mood, contrasting form/style, contrasting time period, etc.) and compose a brief (two- to three-minute) musical composition that reflects each. This could be a vocal piece that sets the poetry’s words to music or an instrumental composition that seeks to depict or represent the poems’ meanings. Students will also submit a brief written reflection (one to two pages) that explains the thinking behind their compositions.

This item has been voluntarily field-tested by Michigan teachers with a non-representative sample of students.

This is an analytic rubric. The column on the left shows the dimension that is being measured in the student’s performance. The levels across the top row indicate the performance level in the dimensions. Occasionally all dimensions and performance levels are exemplified by multiple students in a single recording.


  • Dimension
  • Compositional Success

  • Written Reflection

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • One (or both) of the compositions is not complete.

    N/A at this time.
  • Both compositions are complete, but bear little resemblance to their poetic bases. The compositions lack contrast, fail to depict the mood of the selected poems, and/or completely lack musical devices that depict poetic imagery.

    N/A at this time.
  • Compositions are somewhat successful in depicting the two poems. There may be insufficient contrast between the two pieces or some confusion regarding how the poems’ moods are represented in the musical content. Compositions may lack clear depictions of poetic imagery.

    N/A at this time.
  • Compositions offer an excellent depiction of the two poems. Like the two poems, the two compositions show clear contrast. The mood of the poems is conveyed by the mood of the music. Compositions use devices that clearly depict imagery from the poems (florid passages that evoke the flight of birds, descending passages that represent walking down stairs, etc.).

    N/A at this time.
  • Student makes little or no effort to describe the connection between the poems and their musical representations and/or the written reflection is clearly incomplete.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student’s comments reflect only a cursory description of the connection between the poems selected their musical representations. Few, if any, specific examples are offered. Written reflection is lacking in specificity and depth.

    N/A at this time.
  • Written reflection is adequate but not in depth. Writing describes the connections between the poems and their musical representations, and there is a general sense that the compositional process was connected to an understanding of the poems’ meanings. There are several specific examples offered and/or explanation of compositional process is vague and less detailed.

    N/A at this time.
  • Written reflection is thoughtful and well written. The content of the reflection describes deep connections between the poems and their musical representations. Specific examples of compositional choices that are linked to material found in the poems are provided.

    N/A at this time.
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