Have you tried spoken word poetry for high school students? Teaching traditional poetry is an important part of ELA instruction. Poems are short and accessible. It is easy to find a traditional poem to pair with any text.
It makes sense to incorporate spoken word alongside traditional poetry.
First, slam poetry is a modern art form, one that has important roots in oral storytelling. Stories connect us. Stories make us human. In spoken word, stories are accessible and relatable.
Second, spoken word poetry is not just storytelling. Spoken word poets use poetic devices and techniques just like traditional poets…what may be missing is strict adherence to form. Consequently, teaching students to identify and discuss the impact of figurative language can be accomplished with spoken word poetry just as with traditional poetry.
Third, students use speaking skills as a natural extension of writing. Holding a classroom poetry slam rewards teachers and students. Students write for a real-world audience and take their writing and performance seriously.
Fourth, spoken word poetry helps to build classroom community. Students will see that, despite differences, they are connected to each other. This is important!
Spoken Word Poetry for High School Students
Several years ago, I made the scary-at-the-time move to incorporate slam poetry into our sophomore curriculum. As an introvert, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of performance poetry at first. I found spoken word to be scary. But I also found spoken word to be uplifting, empowering, and totally worth the time investment.
Every year I teach spoken word poetry to high school sophomores. Overall, it never fails to amaze me how every student has a message to send. Spoken word promotes increased student engagement and builds classroom community.
There is something about spoken word poetry that, as Sarah Kay says, “opens locks.” Truly, this kind of poetry forms intersections between what students know to be true and the life experiences of others.
First, as students gain the courage to write and perform their own poems, they find recognition and acceptance. Next, students also find and use an authentic writing voice.
Instructional Resources for Secondary ELA
If you’re ready to incorporate spoken word poetry for high school students, kudos to you!
Here is a list of 40 favorite spoken word poems for your classroom.
Then, if you’re not sure where to start, let me partner with you! You’re in that scary, yet exciting getting started with slam poetry teaching stage, which is awesome!
Click on the following link to find 12 tips for teaching spoken word poetry in your classroom.
Or, save some time by downloading my free guide to building excitement for slam poetry!
Heidi L. Plocher
I love teaching oral poetry (slam poetry in particular!). I, too, lean more toward being an introvert and the first time I taught this, I knew I had to give an authentic, teacher-on-the-spot, example. As scary as it was to be so vulnerable in front of my students, it gave them the confidence to do it, too. I typically teach this as a review of concepts in my one semester (!!) Senior Writing class, and as a way for the seniors to have a chance to just have fun and really let loose during their final year (I never judge them for content; I want things “real and honest,” you know?). I do bring in some juniors to help judge a contest that takes place right before we break for Thanksgiving. All that being said, I really like your idea to bring it down to the sophomores, though. I will have to give that some serious thought for the coming year.
Heidi, I love the idea of bringing in the juniors as contest judges! Every year, we have an all-sophomore slam as the capstone to our slam poetry unit and I love seeing how this has become a tradition, a rite-of-passage in our school. Kudos to you for being willing to join the kids and be vulnerable – this is so important! 🙂