Slam Poetry and the Voice
by Giselle Gremmert
Students will learn what Slam Poetry is, how the voice is used to perform it, and how to write it by analyzing Slam Poetry videos and writing and performing their own Slam Poetry pieces.
--Slam Poetry How To Handout (included in lesson plan attachment)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGAMd-tT6fQ (Declarative Sentences)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVvagvG8Ys8 (Roundhouse Girl)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGDXyoYlKlQ (Roundhouse Boy)
Hook: (5 minutes)
How many people have heard of slam poetry?
What are some of your guesses as to what Slam Poetry might be?
Watch “Declarative Sentences” Youtube (2:58)
Instruction: (10 minutes)
This is Slam Poetry. Slam Poetry is not poetry meant to be read silently on a page. It’s not something you slip in a cute boy’s locker to tell him how much you like him. This is hard hitting issues that people need to talk about. Slam Poetry is like hip hop.
One of the goals of a poetry slam is to challenge the authority of anyone who claims absolute authority over literary value. How many times in your lives has someone told you that you can’t feel that way or that your opinion isn’t valid? How many people have struggles in their lives that society says you’re not allowed to talk about?
This is what we’re going to explore in Slam Poetry. You writing what you think and feel and using your voice to express what words just written on a page cannot.
How many people in class have smart phones that can access Youtube right now?
Depending on the number that raise their hands students, either split students up into pairs or into groups of 3. (Pairs is preferable).
Instruct students that each group will need to be looking up slam poetry videos and writing down IN WHAT WAY DO THE POETS USE THEIR VOICES TO CONVEY THEIR MESSAGE. This does not mean that they have an interesting topic that they’re talking about, but how do they use their voice as a tool to help them? What things can we write down that we wouldn’t be able to say if we were just reading the words on paper?
Three pieces of advice:
- There is a lot of slam poetry that is not school appropriate. I am trusting you to choose a different video if you come across anything that would make other people in the class feel uncomfortable.
- Roundhouse Slam Competition is one of the best things you can use on Youtube to narrow your search. Everything I have come across from Roundhouse is very clean and very amazing. Taylor Mali, the clip we watched at the beginning of class, is amazing, but his stuff can get a little bit more suggestive.
- If you find a good video, make sure to write down the exact search criteria you typed in to find it and the exact name of the video so we can look it up and show it to the rest of the class.
When we get back together two things are going to happen.
- We are going to share our list of different things we learned.
- We are going to watch a few of the videos that you find—so pick some good ones.
Practice: (15 minutes)
Let students go and work with their partners to watch videos and find clips. Students will be turning in a piece of paper with both partners names at the top and 5 interesting things the poets do with their VOICE to convey meaning or emotion.
Discussion: (15 minutes)
Have students start listing off (by raise of hands) the different things they noticed about the poets voices. Write them all down on the board. Circle and connect words that have similar themes. Consolidate themes into one word.
The following four words are the different things that need to be on the board by the time they’re done giving suggestions:
Practice: (20 minutes)
Have about 5 different groups come up and show their videos. Talk about the four different areas and how they show up in each video. Remind students that if any inappropriate content is shared, the video will be turned off and there will be an email going home to parents.
Practice: (15 minutes)
If time remains in class, students can quietly use the rest of class to begin writing their slam poems. Make sure to leave enough time at the end of class to pass out the hand out and give the homework assignment of having students write their first draft of their poem.
Students will turn in the paper with 5 things they noticed about voice in the slam poetry videos.
(follow up to this lesson would be having students perform their slam poems for each other focusing on their vocal qualities)