Stage a Poetry Slam!
- Arts & Humanities
Language Arts, Literature, Theatre
Students participate in a classroom or school-wide poetry slam. A poetry slam could also serve as a fund-raising activity or parents night event.
- select poems that lend themselves to being performed.
- plan performances that follow established slam guidelines or rules.
- practice their performances.
- present their poetry reading in a videotaped slam performance.
- use a rubric or scale to rate performances by their peers (optional).
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Explain the concept of a poetry slam to students.
What Is a Poetry Slam? PoetrySlam.com offers the following definition of a poetry slam on its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page:
"Simply put, a poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. It puts dual emphasis on writing and performance, encouraging poets to focus on what they're saying and how they're saying it. A poetry slam is an event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience."
Often, in a poetry slam, the audience participates by judging each performance on a scale of 1 to 10. For more basic information about poetry slams, go to PoetrySlam's FAQ Page. There you will find the answers to such questions as What are the rules? and What can the audience do?
Tips for Your Poetry Slam
For the purposes of a classroom or school-wide activity, the rules of a poetry slam can be adapted in many ways, including the following:
- Students might perform poetry written by well-known poets, or they might perform poems they have written themselves.
- Student performances might be limited to two minutes in length; point penalties might be applied to any performance that goes longer than that.
- A ballot and rubric can be created so students can rate one another's performances, or the teacher might be the sole grader.
- If a school-wide event is held, poets and other community members might serve as the event judges.
- Students might use props when they perform.
- Student performances can be videotaped in their classrooms; a panel of judges, including teachers and students, might review the videotapes to select the students who will perform in the school-wide event.
- The poetry slam might be open to any student who wishes to participate -- or each class could hold a mini poetry slam and select three students to represent the class in the school-wide event.
- Performances might be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (with .5 increments allowed) or on the 1.0 to 6.0 scale often used in Olympic competitions (with .1 increments allowed).
- One score might be given for each student's performance, or separate scores might be given for the student's content and presentation; the "content" grade could reflect the content of the poem if it is student-written or, if not, that score could reflect the research that went into finding the ideal poem to perform.
- If this is students' first experience with a poetry slam, it should first be introduced in class as a fun activity. That way, students will get a feel for the form.
- Admission can be charged, with proceeds used to improve student programs. Individual students could be awarded cash prizes that would be turned over in their names to local charities pre-selected by the students.
For additional slam rules -- rules that can be adapted for a classroom or school wide poetry slam -- see the Poetry Slam Rules FAQ page.
A poetry slam can be great fun! It can make a nice addition to a school open house or parents night, or it might even be used as a fund-raiser or community service event.
Assessment suggestions are provided in the Tips for Your Poetry Slam notes above.
Lesson Plan Source
Return to the Lesson Planning article, Turn Students Into Well-Versed Poets.
Originally published 4/19/2002