Grand Slam: Performance Poetry Engages Students

Grand Slam: Performance Poetry Engages Students


>>Where does hope go when
amazing grace becomes graceless and the only hands left to hold
are sweaty and quivering in fear? Questions that come
from two little boys…>>Narrator: Like Jesica, many
students enter Global Writes as early as sixth grade or younger. The Bronx-based nonprofit pairs
working poets with local schools. In 32 weekly sessions a
year, during English class, they teach kids the art of competitive performance
poetry, or “slam.”>>I find my tongue,
tumble over my teeth as I tell him those questions
weren’t meant for me, and now, his eyes are silently screaming that I’m the only person
that can answer him.>>Jesica: Writing, it gives me a
reason to, I guess, better myself and to hold myself as a better
person behaviorwise and in class.>>Narrator: The poets and classroom
teachers help students develop their writing and performance skills
using lot of class discussion and taking inspiration from professional slammers,
like Steve Coleman.>>Steve: I want to hear a poem about
revolution, about fists raised high and hips twisting in
a rumble like a rumba. I want to follow the footsteps
of Che and hear the truth about the day the CIA killed Lumumba.>>Narrator: The chance to
express themselves lights a fire under these kids, as
does the prospect of eventually competing
school-to-school.>>Steve: I want to feel the poem. I want to taste the poem. Give me your spot on the mic
if you want to waste a poem. I want to hear a moan. [ Cheers and applause ]>>Teacher: Okay, so things
that you guys have pointed out. He varies his volume. He varies his speed. Anything else you’re noticing
about how his poem is written?>>His rhymes. They’re not like “bad, sad, mad.” It’s like more detailed, more bigger
words, and it has something to do with what he’s talking about.>>Robert: In the South Bronx,
you look at the obesity rate, the suicide, the asthma rates, these
things that children keep bottled in, so this is like a release for
them, to be able to come to school, forget about everything
else, and just write.>>Jesica: If you have a closed
bottle and it has soda in it and you shake it up, when you open
it, all the pressure is released, and it’s like that’s how it feels
when you write out what you feel.>>She’s the writer of her
pain, but got no vein of shame. Cry at night, hold her pillow tight. The tears of a tiger roll
down her cheek into the ocean that holds the tears of a
teenage girl, of her screams, of her sorrows, of
her joy, of her pain.>>Robert: Part of the whole idea
of the poets in my school is that the kids want to be here,
so our attendance is good, they score well academically,
and they achieve something. [ Cheers and applause ]>>Taylor: It builds confidence
for the kids that students, that when I met them, didn’t have. They couldn’t get their eyes from
their notebook, and they would stand at the furthest point away from the
audience possible and they would talk as quietly as they could, and now it’s like they’ve
thrown their notebooks down and they enjoy every second of it. I see that through their writing
they’re using a lot more poetic devices, literary devices, and they’re not just
throwing them in there. It’s not about plopping
them in there anymore. They actually make sense and
they make the writing stronger.>>Narrator: To gear up for the
competitive slams, students practice by performing via videoconference
for their classmates and peers in the six cities Global Writes
serves across three states.>>Can you hear me now?>>Narrator: Today, it’s a
friendly practice session between The Bronx and nearby Yonkers.>>”Why I Recognize.” Why? Because “real eyes
realize real lies.” You lyrical cliche reciter. I should tear your
eyes out with a spoon. Maybe then you’ll be recognized.>>Narrator: Teachers push them to
develop their constructive criticism as rigorously as their writing, and
as the kids get older, their poems and their critiques
grow more sophisticated.>>When you’re going to go slam, you
have to not only speak like it comes from the heart, but you have
to perform it, like its body and words are one when
you are slamming.>>Jesica: When you find out that
words can actually change the world and that the words that change
the world come from you, then it just makes
you feel so important.>>I can’t ever imagine how
hard it must be to hold images of your mother’s passing
in your pupils, and I want to sing these boys a
sweet melody that could tap dance across the rainbows of the better
side of everything, but the logic and their scars force
me to let them mourn.>>Narrator: For more
information on what works in public education,
go to Edutopia.org.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *