March 3, 2008

South Aftrican Poetry Slam

This just in from Jayne in Jo-berg!

We had a poetry slam last Friday. It was awesome.

My class and I had invited parents, the librarian, the elementary
principal, and the school counselor. There were about 30 people for this
event. I moved all the tables and desks out of my classroom, and we put
the chairs, the couch, and a few pillows in a big circle. I called it
"Poetry in the Round." In the middle of our circle I setup a small table
with candles, flowers, and a big hat for names. In our invitation we
encouraged our guests to bring poems they would like to share.

Round One: Memorized Poems

Anyone who had memorized a poem could put their name in the hat.
I had all of my students and one parent participate in round one. To
start I picked the first name out of the hat. When I read the name out
loud, everyone had to say "YES" enthusiastically. The reader would
stand up and say their poem. Instead of applause, one girl had suggested
we snap our fingers a bunch of times. It worked great. Then person who
had just said their poem would pick the next name out of a hat, and we'd
all say "YES" enthusiastically and so on till all the names were picked
and poems said. I would make a big deal out of finishing each round and
we'd have a minute or two break and then dive into the next round.

Round Two: Poems You Wrote

Anyone who had written a poem they wanted to share could put
their name in the hat. My students had recently put all their poems
into a book so they had lots to choose from. It was fun to have a few
parents join in this round too as well as all of my students and my
student teacher.

Round Three: Anything Goes

Besides all the students, I had lots of parents and
administrators participate in round three. The kids loved it when their
parent's name was chosen. Many of the parents put their heart and soul
into reading their poems. A highlight for my class was my student
teacher's contributions. He not only shared a number of his creations,
but as a farewell to the class, he shared a beautiful poem he wrote
called "Recipe for a Great Class." The piece included every student's
name and a bit of their personality. It was beautiful. This was his
last day with our class and so the poetry slam was also his farewell
party. After beginning teaching the poetry unit 6 weeks before, I had
asked him if he wanted to teach some of the poetry classes. He said
writing was not his thing especially poetry. I decided that every poem
the kids worked on, he would do as well. After a hesitant start, he
really got into it. He began sharing more and more of his work with the
class every day and it gave them confidence to share too. His honesty
about his feeling that he wasn't a good writer made the students
encourage him and each other more and more. It was one of those magical units that everyone can't help but grow, learn and feel good about their writing and themselves.

Jayne from Jo-burg

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