Overview: In this high school arts integration lesson, students are pairing the 5 elements found in slam poetry for creating rhythm with the elements of theater to create a slam poetry performance.

Content Areas: Writing and Theater

 Grades: 9-12

When you were in school, did you immediately fall in love with poetry?  Most people I know have a tough time saying an unequivocal “yes” to that question. I think that’s because we started with poetry that was simple and easy in its rhyming words, but didn’t really strike a chord with our emotions.  As you progress in studying poetry, you learn new formats and even explore innovators to the form like Maya Angelou, but still…the act of reading poetry becomes a stale act of deliverance to the words on the page.

In this lesson, we’re aiming to turn that typical study of poetry upside down using the genre of Slam Poetry.  In this format, the deliverers of the message combine rhythm, movement, energy and body as an equal to the words on the page.  Slam Poetry is original in nature (we’re not reading others’ work as a performance), and seeks to engage the audience in the process.

All of this provides a great arts integration opportunity to connect writing poetry with theatrical performances.  In this lesson, students are not only analyzing traditional poetic texts, their also analyzing slam poet performances as a text all of their own.  Then, we’re working to write our own poems and dramatic performances that combine for a whole new way of experiencing poetry.

This lesson is so exciting to me because it highlights one of my favorite slam poets, Gayle Danley.  I have had the pleasure of meeting her when she was an artist in residence at a school in my district and the screen doesn’t do her justice.  I remember time standing still as everyone listened in awe to her performance.  And that is the power of weaving both the written word and the dramatic performance together.  When students have the opportunity to craft that for themselves and the participate in the act of speaking and listening to their own creations, it is an extraordinary moment.  Here’s to slammin’ poetry any chance you get!

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