Teaching Your Students to Speak Now
By: Maddie Brandel
Slam poetry. By definition, it is the competitive art of performance poetry. That's the official run-down, but what is it really? Slam poetry is a way for kids to compete through spoken poetry. It is also an amazing outlet for kids of all ages—an awesome release of emotion and struggles, whether they are internal or external. George Washington Middle School in Honolulu, Hawaii, has slam poetry sessions for the students taught by the school's dance and drama teacher, Roxanne Kaino, and the school's language arts teacher, Joan Fujio. They call it Speak Now. Their sessions are a great example of how slam poetry can be used in a positive way to further students' writing skills, performing skills, and psychological health.
In the classroom, Kaino and Fujio say that Speak Now is an opportunity for students to write for fun and express emotions--not to respond to a prompt. Their goal is to make writing fun again and take away all of the hindering rules so often given to kids when writing in school. The students are encouraged not to rhyme, just to express themselves and be completely honest in their writing. The sessions have many other draws for kids in addition to the free writing agenda. Kaino and Fujio have former students and even slam poets come in and talk to their students.
In the sessions, students use associated words, a word bank, literary devices, and rhythm. The students also learn about passion and how their most passionate emotions are the ones that make for the best slam poetry. They write about anger, love, frustration, and any other strong feelings.
The students' hard work and dedication produces a fantastic and powerful result. When the students speak, they draw emotion from their audience. One rule in Speak Now is that all the students think about what they are writing and don't say anything that might offend someone in the audience, because their voices are so powerful. Isn't that amazing? Their writing and their voices can have a powerful impact on the audience. And for some kids, knowing that they can really be heard is exactly what makes them happy to attend.