At the end of the year, I always do a poetry unit with my kids. I love to have the kids work on writing poems and talking about the many genres that poetry can take, and have always just used my poetry writing journal. However, I never thought – until recently – about having my kids write slam poetry. Over the last few weeks, I have been exposed to two great “slam poets”, Holly McNish and Taylor Mali and who have recorded themselves and put their poetry up on YouTube. After watching quite a few of their poems, I thought about how cool of a project it would be to allow kids to write “slam poetry” of their own – in a poetry unit, or even a persuasive writing unit. Unfortunately, I won’t be teaching writing next year (although I will pass this on to the teacher who will be), butthought I would pass it on to you all here too
First, show your students some examples of slam poetry. Here are two examples from the two poets I listed above:
Here are some kids performing slam poetry:
Ask students the question - “What makes slam poetry different from regular poetry?” If needed, guide them to answers like – Slam poetry is meant to be presented, not read and slam poetry has a specific message. Record this question and answer session on the board, or in your students’ interactive notebooks. You could also use this information to create a Venn Diagram.
Next, ask students to choose a purpose for their slam poetry. Slam poems will be more powerful if students choose a topic that has a purpose specific to them. “Child appropriate” slam poem topics will probably overlap with your persuasive writing topics – why kids should or shouldn’t have homework, or wear uniforms, why smoking is a bad idea, why kids should eat healthy foods etc. Bullying, media pressure, and sibling rivalry would all also make good slam poetry topics for kids. If your class is in the middle of a history lesson, they might be able to write a slam poem from the point of view of the “downtrodden” – slaves, peasants, etc. There are many avenues to get kids writing slam poetry.
Now, it’s time to let them write. After choosing a topic, kids will need good solid brainstorming time, time to think up words, rhymes, stories etc. to go with their topic. They will need time to draft as well, and should be encouraged to edit using a good thesaurus – this is a great time to talk about word choice!
Finally, students should have time to rehearse their presentation. Since presentation is such a big part of slam poetry, students should take the time to perfect their presentation. Then, have students record their presentations. It would be fun to also present the poems in front of the class, but since 1.) video is the presentation mode preferred these days and 2.) many kids get stage fright when presenting in front of the class (especially your language learners!) Recorded presentations provide students with a great way to share their slam poems. Once slam poems are recorded, share them with other classes and students (with student and parent permission), and allow students to compare the topics and styles of different poems.
Hope this can help you in your class. If you end up with sharable video – please feel free to leave me a comment with a link!