Poetry Slams and Lesson Plans

Poetry slams can lead your students beyond a focus on rhyme and meter and into the emotional pull of poetry.

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poetry slam lesson plans

Whenever a teacher mentions poetry, students often respond with moans and groans. However, there are a lot of fun and interactive lessons that can help students transition from poetry being all about rhyme and meter to an expression of free-flowing emotion and ideas.

One such activity is a “poetry slam.” This activity gives students the opportunity to write and perform their poems in front of a group of people. In a traditional slam, the topic of the poems is the same. Some topics might be relationships, the environment or politics.  Each poet is given a specific amount of time to recite his or her work in front of a live audience.  The goal is not merely to read the poem, but to embody the essence of the poem.  A group of judges or evaluators then gives the poet a score, typically between 0 and 30 points. This score can be based on any number of qualities, such as performance or adherence to topic.  In your classroom, you can design the evaluation to fit the needs of your students and include such categories as focus, theme and performance. In order to determine a winner, tabulate the numerical results and incorporate audience comments/observations to determine a winner. I suggest creating a universal observation form for each student to use.

In order to familiarize students with this type of poetic expression, try finding local poetry slams that feature community poets. Coffee houses and colleges or universities are great places to start. The first student poetry slam can be done in the classroom. Once students become familiar enough with the format and the scoring system, encourage them to do a poetry slam with other English classes. Organizing a poetry slam for the whole school is another way to expose students to the various forms of poetry as well.

Poetry slams can be used in practically any creative writing/poetry or literature lesson. It can also work in conjunction with speech/debate presentations in order to help with “stage fright.” The following lessons provide a great foundation for incorporating a poetry slam into poetry and creative writing lessons.

Poetry Slams and Lesson Plans:

My Favorite Place

This lesson allows the students to explore how the senses influence creative writing.  After going through a whole-class visual activity, the students brainstorm using their own favorite place. This would be a great opportunity to share their poems in the poetry slam format.

Making Poetry Writing Fun

This lesson is a great introduction to poetry. Once students explore and analyze some more common poems, they use what they learned about form and style to create their own. This lesson also allows for flexibility, and can be adapted to specific classroom needs.

Descriptive Writing

This lesson explores characteristics of exotic animals and how they could be described.  In the lesson, students explore each stage of the writing process and look at specific examples.  Once they are familiar with the process, they use their imagination and creativity to produce a unique project. Rather than turning in written work, a poetry slam could easily be interchanged. This is a great lesson because it can be adapted to any topic. 

Poetry Slam

This is a great lesson to introduce students to poetry slams. It takes students through the process step-by-step using an impromptu activity where students choose words randomly and then construct a poem.  This is a fun and interactive lesson

Discussion Question:

Do you have students partcipate in a type of poetry slam?