Hey people! I had given six tricks to teaching poetry on a previous post and the last one was Bring Back the Fun — Poetry Slam! Yes, today’s post will be providing you with steps on how to organise a successful and impactful slam within your class.
What is Slam Poetry? Poetry Slam or Slam Poetry in simple terms means poetry on the stage. Dated to as far back as 1984, its first aim was to move poetry from its academic purpose to something entertaining. Poetry Slam is a competitive way of teaching students to reach deep into themselves and search for subjects that matter to them and recreate them into provoking lines. But getting young students who are so easily distracted to do this might be a difficult task. Here are the steps I used in coaching my middle school students into writing and performing their own poems (the whole unit took about three weeks):
-The Announcement: At some point during our poetry lessons, I paused to announce to the students that we will be having a poetry slam and so they must take our lessons seriously as that will help them write their own poems. The excitement of competing against each other and the promise of presents for first, second and third places, spiced up our lessons and brought in more commitment from the students.
-Brainstorming: Our first official class on Poetry Slam started off with a brainstorming session. I did this through a gallery walk — a discussion technique that allows students to be actively engaged as they walk throughout the classroom. I introduced the gallery walk by telling the class that we’ve read and analysed poems written by other people and now, they will attempt to write theirs.
While preparing for this lesson, I made posters out of four cardboard papers with six questions written on them, leaving empty spaces for students’ responses and pasted them all over the walls of our classroom. The questions were reflective and touched on issues like gender roles, social/political changes, teenage life, family and identity. I broke the students into four groups (you can do this depending on the number of kids in your class) and students moved in their groups and took turns looking at the posters and writing their answers on them. Some of the questions were highly sensitive and personal and so I encouraged the students to use acronyms only them can decode for responses they considered personal. Gallery walk gives you the space as a teacher to take a few minutes off talking and simply observe the thinking process of your kids. These were the prompts on my posters:
Poster 1: What do you think about gender roles? Should people be allowed to do certain things based on their interest/abilities or gender?
This helps you know what your students think about gender equality and at the same time, empower the girls in the class who may be thinking that their sex is an excuse to not attain a certain height in life. Some of the responses I got were:
- Gender does not matter, people should be allowed to do what they want to do.
- Gender roles aren’t necessary. I think it should be based on their abilities.
- I think that gender doesn’t matter in anything you choose to do. Your choice should be based on your abilities and not your gender.
- I don’t think people should be judged based on their gender, both are made with equal abilities except for pregnancy.
Poster 2: What political or social issues do you strongly support or reject?
For this, I divided the card into two sections with the tags: Support and Reject. Students were expected to fill both columns and some of their responses were:
Trying to stop corruption, A cure for stomach pain , The president isn’t trying to help his country
All the doctors that can’t help me, Bad politicians, Bad presidents
Poster 3: I had three questions on Poster 3.
- What personal experience has affected you greatly?
Many of the students used acronyms here and I let them know it was okay, if they didn’t want to share, especially if it still traumatises them. Some responses were: My health, Violence, My stomach pain, Family, Near death experience, Father support.
- What do you care deeply about?
Responses included My family, Life, Family and education, My parents, Animals, Anime.
- What do you wish to change about being a child/preteen/teen?
Answers given were Puberty, My health, Where I live, and tons of acronyms.
Poster 4: The Blank Cheque
Here, I allowed students to simply express themselves about anything. Some of the responses I received were: Life isn’t fair, Friends have made me, I love my family.
The brainstorm task was a bit tough because that was me trying to let the kids get into themselves and dig up issues they might otherwise not want to talk about. But I was happy to see how successful it turned out as most of the responses the kids gave were a reflection of their experiences. I have students battling health issues in my class and coming from separated homes. This exercise, therefore, was a sort of closure for them and even seeing them discuss their answers among themselves outside the lesson made me fulfilled. It is important that we as teachers, find creative ways of letting kids open up on issues that bother them without being intrusive. What issues do you think affect your students? Why not create a gallery walk to address them?
The next post will be on writing our poems, memorising the lines and practising our performances. Wait for it. 🙂