Still on our poetry lessons! The previous post provided you with the necessary steps needed in the brainstorming session. So now that you have awakened your students’ spirits and ideas, it is time to launch them into writing their own poems. But first things first:

  1. Show them samples of other poetry performances.Remember the first time you introduced poetry to them? You started off with showing them how fun it can be by sharing video clips with them. That’s exactly what you should do again. With my students, we watched performances on feminism, taking pride in one’s cultural identity, child neglect (from a child’s perspective) and self-esteem. After every performance, I allowed silence to rule the class for a few seconds and then I asked questions on what they thought of the poem:

Do they agree with the poet? Why or why not?

Do these things happen in real life?

Do you think it’s okay or acceptable?

What can be done to change it?

These questions encourage critical thinking in students and also help them with self-evaluation. Lessons like this give the teacher an opportunity to point out on vices and allow students be the judge as to why they are harmful and why they must not be perpetuated.

Like I said in the first post of this series, if your school has no technical support, you can check online for poems with related themes as the ones above, copy them out on cardboard papers and perform them yourself before your students. The goal is to get the students engaged, so don’t be afraid of using whatever means available to you.

  1. Your students have seen and discussed poems from other people.They have also done some soul searching and now, it’s time to write. Remind them that the purpose of a poetry slam is to bring about some change, speak up against certain ills or address certain reoccurring issues that people may not ordinarily notice. I told my students to think about our gallery walk and the responses they gave and then I asked: What is most important to you? If there was something you would want to speak up against or change, what would that be? I told them to think about the poems they have seen and read, to think about the society they live in, and to think about some of their experiences, good or bad, that have affected others. I allowed them to think, take down quick notes and to walk around the classroom to check for their responses on our posters. After about ten minutes, we set out to create our first draft.
  2. Draft: At this stage, every student has chosen a topic to write on.So I created a graphic organiser that will help them put their poems together. The organiser was divided into sections:

-What will your poem be about? (Topic)

-What message are you hoping to pass with the poem? (Theme)

-How many stanzas are you looking to have? How many lines will each stanza have? (Structure)

-What will be the tone of your poem?

-What figures of speech will you have in the poem? (Literary Devices)

I stepped aside after distributing the graphic organiser (you can recreate it on the board) and allowed students plan out their poems in their notebooks. Then I walked around to supervise and assist struggling students.

You’ll have students who are already charged up enough to know what to write. But you’ll also get constant comments from other students like, ‘But I can’t think of anything’, ‘How do I know what to write?’ ‘What I’m writing doesn’t make sense,’ etc. Just remember you are working with kids who are probably writing such poems for the first time, so you must be patient and provide sufficient scaffolding that will help each and every student to achieve the goal. You can provide more guiding questions by breaking them down to the students’ level. Say things like:

What is the thing about your home/country that makes you unhappy? How does that make other people feel?

What don’t you like about your class or classmates? Why? What can you do to change that?

At the end, be sure that everyone has their poem all planned out.

  1. Writing the Poems: Encourage your students to feel relaxed as you begin the writing process on a fresh page. Give them starters. Say, ‘You can start up with a question’ or ‘Think about the poems we read in class. How did the poets begin their lines?’ Allow them to look at the poems, if they feel like, but ensure that they do not plagiarise. Remind them of the importance of self-esteem and taking pride in one’s own work. Overall, let them know that they can do it as poetry is self-expression and you’re there to help them. Also remember to tell them that they might have more or less lines/figures of speech than their drafts suggest and that it’s okay. The draft is only a guide. You know your students and their strengths so veer towards the struggling students and offer them help. Writing the poem may take two lessons. Collect students’ works when they finish.

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