I’m sitting here on spring break SO excited because it’s almost time for my students to begin exploring, writing, and performing slam poems. Slam poetry is not just a fad, friends. It’s hip and it’s hot, but it’s as ancient as storytelling itself.
I think that’s why my students love slam poetry so much. In writing slam poems, students find their truth, and in performing slam poetry, students become connected to each other. In short, they find that their truths are universal and that’s empowering.
So, whether you show slam poems to your class for a quick pick-me-up, use them to make connections to a more traditional text, or treat your students to an all-in slam poetry experience, you’re sure to love the following performances.
Finally…a Classroom-Friendly List for Teachers
As a teacher, I’ve spent hours scouring the interwebs looking for the best poems for teaching slam poetry. In this post, I’m sharing 40 different and classroom-friendly poems, each one by a different slam poet.
- Although some of the poems touch on heavy topics such as suicide, they are all clean and classroom-friendly in terms of language used. This being said, I would still encourage you to make certain they will be a good fit for your group of students and your own comfort level. This list of slam poems is geared toward high school students, but many are appropriate for middle school students, as well!
- There are some oldies, but goodies, and some new poems to love – a little bit of everything!
- I have also tried to give a good mix of styles and topics, from humorous to heavy. If there’s one thing I want to break for my students, it’s the stereotype that all slam poetry is always angry, rant-like, and sad!
And I’ve tried to restrain myself from fangirl posting a bunch of slam poems from each poet. If you love a particular poet’s style, I would encourage you to search for more poems by him/her. Phil Kaye, Marshall Davis Jones, Rudy Francisco, Shane Koyczan, and Taylor Mali are my favorites and all of them tend to be school appropriate…most of the time…
40 Slam Poems for Your English Language Arts Classroom
Anis Mojgani “Shake the Dust”
“Speak every time you stand so you do not forget yourself.”
Phil Kaye “Repetition”
“If you just wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up,
one day you’ll forget why…”
Neil Hilborn “OCD”
“I want her back so bad. I leave the door unlocked.
I leave the lights on.”
Marshall Davis Jones “Touchscreen”
“Why wouldn’t I spend more time in the world where there are more people that ‘like’ me?”
Katie Makkai “Pretty”
“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely ‘pretty.'”
Taylor Mali “Tony Steinberg: Brave Seventh-Grade Viking Warrior”
“…the soul of the brave warrior rising slowly with the smoke.”
Rudy Francisco “Complainers” (Clean Version)
“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half-full or half-empty.
There’s water in the cup; drink it and stop complaining…”
Harry Baker “A Love Poem for Lonely Prime Numbers”
I just love everything about this…math puns abound!
Jesse Parent “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter”
“When you played at war, I was perfecting head shots. You can’t catch up at this point.”
Shane Koyczan “Instructions for a Bad Day”
“Love and hate are beasts and the one that grows is the one you feed.”
Lamar Jordan “Shooter”
“We fight foreigners when we are the ones who would shoot you. I’m sorry.”
Catalina Ferro “Emergency Exit Row”
“I am not hero material. I happen to like my life.”
Malcolm London “High School Training Ground”
“…to train you, to keep you on track, to track down
an American dream that that has failed so many…”
Clint Smith “The Danger of Silence”
“I challenge my students to explore the silences in their own lives through poetry.”
Kevin Kantor “A Letter from Cancer”
This one is haunting, as told from cancer’s perspective, “I’ll always come back for you.”
Pages Matam on “Looking for Your Voice”
“My mama, she never had no wings, but she’s always had this global warming of a smile…”
Rebecca Mae “Dear God of Hiccups”
“We’d forget about the Tupperware, talk about the future like we always do…always did.”
Gina Loring “Somewhere There is a Poem”
“I’m down for the revolution which may not be televised
and it may not get radio play, but it will be told through poetry.”
Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye “When Love Arrives”
“I knew exactly what love looked like…”
Brenna Twohy “In Which I Do Not Fear Harvey Dent”
“I know what it is to fight monsters.
I know how strong an ordinary human has to be.”
Denise Frohman “Accents”
“Her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.”
George Watsky “Go Robo”
I love the interaction of this poem between the poet and the girl
who wants to be a robot when she grows up.
Donovan Livingston “Harvard Commencement Speech, 2016”
“But hey, I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.”
Rhiannon McGavin “Smile”
“Don’t tell sad girls to smile.”
Alyea Pierce “Justin: A Poem to Autism”
“He is the enough that we ignore.”
Marc Smith “My Father’s Coat”
Kudos to the “father” of slam and his poem that helps students to discuss
and understand extended metaphor.
Nova Venerable “Cody”
“I pray that his seizures won’t kill him before his diabetes does.”
Michael Lee “Pass On”
“We are not created or destroyed,
we are constantly transferred, shifted and renewed.”
Doc Luben “Bug Vs. Door”
“It can’t imagine a life beyond that door.
All it can see is the light.”
Kevin Yang “Come Home”
“My mother tells me that death is a slow journey back,
that if not done carefully we will wander the Earth cursing those still living.”
Lily Myers “Shrinking Women”
“That’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit…”
Steve Coleman “I Wanna Hear a Poem”
“I want to hear a poem where ideas kiss similes so deeply that metaphors get jealous.”
Joshua Bennett “Tamara’s Opus”
“True love knows no frequency.”
Erin Anastasia “Eat a Sandwich”
“My fourteen-year-old self got stuck in a time loop and continuously goes home to have a good cry.”
Patrick Roche “Siri: A Coping Mechanism”
“Ghosts…would you like me to search the internet for ghosts?”
Hillary Kobernick “Famous”
“…you were never built to be that kind of hero, and the world never needed that kind of hero.”
Mayda del Valle at the White House Poetry Jam
“We are all truly miraculous.”
Kate Tempest “Icarus”
“No one even noticed as he splashed and hit the seabed. I wonder what he saw before he fell…”
Carvens Lissaint “Poetic Stick-Up: Put the Financial Aid in the Bag”
“And all these years, all ya’ll been doing is strangling the life out of my bank statement,
leaving my pockets as vacant as parking lots.”
Ginger Marshall & Bxk “Parenthesis”
“The parenthesis are necessary, but nasty, concealing truth and fear…”
FREE Guide: Building Excitement for Slam Poetry
I hope you have found plenty of slam poems to inspire your students!
I’ve compiled a guide to teaching slam poetry as a resource for teachers like you! I’d love for you to take a moment to download the free guide and let me know what you think.