Intro to Slam Poetry - Get Your Students Excited in Creative Writing

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Video Lesson #1 - Sticks & Stones and The Power of Words
(This is the FREE LESSON I've offered)

Slam poetry is the combination of creative writing and creative performance. It's not like acting because we don't use costumes or props, and it's not like rap or hip-hop because there is no music or beats. It's just about words.

It is an opportunity to approach words in a new and unexpected way and to remove as many of the obstacles, hidden fears, and insecurities so students can have fun being creative writing and performing words.

Step One – I start the first lesson by creating Word Banks on the whiteboard that students can draw from when they start writing. I begin with metaphors and similes, though I often just call them expressions. I like to offer some lead lines and ask them to fill in the end by calling out the answers. The collective creative energy and raised voices immediately establish that slam poetry is fun, interactive and a bit loud. You can make your words banks as large as you’d like. I try to have at least five metaphors and five similes.

Metaphors
It’s raining… ‘cats and dogs’
There is a carpet of… ‘leaves’
Life is a… ‘rollercoaster’
She is a shining… ‘star’
The world is a… ‘stage’
His cotton candy words didn’t appeal to her taste
Her eyes were on fire
She cut him down with her words

Similes
Life is like a box of…‘chocolates’
Cute as a… ‘button/kitten’
Snug as a bug in a… ‘rug’
It’s like a blanket of… ‘snow’
Your room looks like a… ‘disaster area/tornado’
He was as brave as a… ‘lion’
Her joke went over like a… ‘lead balloon’
Stood out like a… ‘sore thumb’

After we establish some Word Banks on the board I ask them to write at least two lines.
The first line starts with, “Your words hurt like…”
The second line starts with, “Your words are beautiful like…”

Have students use a metaphor or a simile to finish each line, and to be as creative as they want. Our best writing usually comes from our experience, so encourage them to think about a time someone said something that hurt, and then write about how that felt.
Then think about a time someone said something helpful, healing or encouraging, and channel that memory and those positive feelings into the second line.

I give them about 5-7 minutes to write, and as soon as they’re done I ask them to come to the front hand them in. It’s anonymous, so no one knows whose line is whose.

Start to create one group slam poem out of all their lines. Lines don’t have to rhythm or be the same length. It looks and feels more like statements made in point form. But the common theme, lead lines and use of metaphors and similes provide enough structure their writing will fit together.

This first lesson does a couple things. It lets students into the creative process. I might read one of their lines out loud and either write it on the board or change it slightly to fit.
I tell them I’m not using every single line, and not every line the way it was written because we’re creating a group slam.

This lets students see their ideas, their lines and imagery up front with everyone else’s. This always has the effect of encouraging and empowering them to realize that they are just as good and creative as anyone else in the class.

Once I have finished the group slam, I perform it for them. Without me being involved, you will perform it as the teacher. You could also invite anyone in the class to perform it as well.

Remember, this is about the process, not the finished product. I like to praise and show excitement about anything in their writing I can, whether I use their line on the board or not.

There is no ‘Right’ way to do slam. There is ‘Your’ way. Some people talk really fast. Others talk really slow. It’s about how you choose to perform the words.

Conclusion – Get the class calling out similes and metaphors. Slam poetry is oral, its performance based, which means it’s loud and fun. And get the students writing as quickly as you can. This first lesson is about the process. Connecting our ideas with emotions and feelings, and then expressing them through our performance. We can edit and perfect our craft late, but we have to start somewhere. So I try to get students writing as fast as I can.

Some Additional Thoughts
Risks & Laughter - I take lots of risks and laugh at myself as I teach so they know they can laugh at themselves and have fun trying it out.

Praise - I praise them for anything and everything I can. Every clever metaphor, use of alliteration every inflection, every risk they take, I remark and comment, because I know lots of writers who get shut down by the voices in their head that tell them they’re no good or people will laugh at them.

This is typically my first lesson I use to introduce slam poetry. Every one of the lessons comes with a 'sample slam' video that you can show your class before they start writing if you’d like.


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