Saturday, April 11, 2015

Poetry Matters - Teach Kids to "Slam" and Find Their Voice

It was wonderful evening dedicated to the power of language last night at the 5th Annual Cherry Creek School District Poetry Slam. As sponsor of the Youth Advisory Board, I teamed with several fabulous people to bring a slam to my school. The event was emceed by the Poet Laureate of Aurora, Colorado, Jovan Mays. He was joined by two other exceptional slam poets, Ayinde Russell and Ken Arkind who played the distinguished slam role as "Voice of God." And, a most excellent mood was set by the cool beats mixed by DJ Simone Says. Twenty-one young people from around the district bared their souls and the magic of their language with a great crowd, and we honored an evening of language empowerment. I am so impressed with these kids, and I am proud and honored to be able to provide a forum for them.

Poetry is an aspect of English class that generates fairly strong responses. People either love it or they hate it, and that goes for teachers as well as the students. Despite the reservations and angst, however, poetry is important and meaningful in the English classroom. Generally, students receive an overdose of poetry during middle school, and not that much in high school. However, they need the challenge of deciphering complex material more than ever as they head toward college. So, a poetry unit or the linking of poems to other units is not only good idea, but a necessity. Engaging the kids with some entertaining free verse, and even Slam Poetry, is an effective approach. To that end, as I discuss free verse, spoken word, and poetry slams with my kids, I love to introduce them to the wonderful linguistic magic of Taylor Mali:

After you've watch this, you will really want to check out his other videos for The Impotence of Proofreading and What Teachers Make. Taylor Mali, a former English teacher, also has a fabulous website with plenty of resources for use in the English classroom.

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