Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poetry Unit, Day 2: Slam Poetry

We started off the day with a five minute activity: Write down everything you think about, everything that pops into your head. Students wrote down things as diverse and ridiculous as One Direction, Cheetos, what if toenails were tacos, my chap stick is tasty, etc. After the five minutes, I collected students' thoughts and turned to the next part of the lesson.

I wanted students to see how poems could be recited with emotion and feeling. To help them understand what I meant, we watched the following slam poems.

"beautiful biology" by Will Evans


For the first video, students were supposed to watch the video and take in the full effect of having a poem performed for them. In those three and a half brief minutes, I had a room full of weepy 12-year-olds, tears being sopped up by hoodie sleeves and jacket tails. The video ended, and the students clapped and started gushing to one another about the poem. When I reminded students that it is less disruptive to snap than clap, I was quickly corrected by a student who told me "That man was good. He deserved a clap." I also got a lot of comments like "That got me real bad, Ms. Miles" and "Whoa! That hurt my emotions." Once they calmed down, we talked about the way the poet used his words and descriptions to really paint a picture in our minds. We also spent some time talking about how he performed the piece, using the speed at which he spoke to convey his meaning.

After that discussion, we moved on to the second video.

"Thinking About You"

This time, I told students I wanted them to write down things about the performance that stood out to them. Phrases, the way he talked, movements, words, anything. After watching the video, students had quite a bit to say. They liked that they could relate to him: he was bored in class thinking about his crush, random stuff kept popping up in his head, and he pretended to go to the bathroom so he could text her. Some students even dug into the poem pretty deeply, wondering if the girl actually liked the guy or if he was obsessed with her. We then talked about his use of repition, specifically with the phrase "Thinkin' about you." I had students say the phrase aloud to feel how easily the sounds tumbled out. This led to a discussion on why the sounds of words are also important in poetry.

Homework for the night was to write their own slam poem to perform in class the next day. The girls made it a challenge: girls would have better slam than boys with the winner getting candy. We will see how it goes :)

Unfortunately, I couldn't do the lesson with any other periods than the first. My projector broke down and refused to stay on for longer than five minutes. Beautiful Corpse Poetry saved the day, and I shifted my timeline around for the other classes. Hopefully the unit still has the same effect for them.

Thoughts? Leave your comments below.

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