BY: SIMONE DAVIS“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand” - Chinese Proverb

OVERVIEW

The main idea/concept of this wiki is to teach poetry as a performance, while incorporating the political, emotional, and social space. Poetry is not only an emotional space for writers to vent or share their feelings, but rather a space that invites political, social, and cultural themes. One outcome of using poetry as performance results in something called "slam poetry". I think that this poetry project would be best suited for students in grades 10, 11, and 12.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
In the article entitled Out Loud: the Common Language of Poetry, all three authors (Ellis, Gere, and Lamberton) discuss a common problem in many English language arts classes: the disconnect between students and poetry. In relation to this disconnect, Ellis states: "the language that high school students often recognize as beautiful is their own "common" language. It is a language that they hear every day and not primarily one that they read on the page" (45). Therefore, it is common for students to read poetry and feel as if they are beneath it, or incapable of even understanding it. Through slam poetry, individuals write and vocalize a response to any political, social, or personal issue that they feel needs attention (such as the issue of discrimination). The outcome of this response takes the form of an artistic piece of work. There is no music involved in this process. The performance aspect lies upon the emotional presentation of the spoken word. Students have the opportunity to vocalize their personal thoughts, take a stand on a specific topic or issue, and perhaps even make a difference. In Joel Kammer’s article From John Donne to the Last Poets: An Eclectic Approach to Poetry, Kammer reminisces on his experiences of listening and responding to students who performed poetry in front of their peers: “[They] seemed nervous, especially at first, but relaxed into the spirit of the poem, and became more and more animated [...] students read, wrote, performed, and responded to poems. [We] put the emphasis on ‘doing’ poetry" (69, 70). Many students find poetry to be boring, intimidating, and redundant. By giving students the autonomy and responsibility of verbalizing and presenting the work of other poets or their own personal poetry, students can evaluate and understand poetry in unique ways, and are not limited in their exposure to poetry (for instance, only hearing how the teacher analyzes a poem). In addition, if students feel too uncomfortable with sharing emotional feelings in front of the class, students can focus on political and social elements within society. By doing this, students can still have a personalized connection with their own poetry (or the poetry of others), but they will not feel as exposed when performing these poems in front of the class. As stated in the article Out Loud: the Common Language of Poetry "students thrive when they feel that they are heard, when they feel that they are being listened to [...] performance poetry can also be a gateway for students to begin thinking about language" (Ellis 45).
WHAT IS SLAM POETRY ANYWAY?

"Slams are captivating poetry events that focus an audience's attention on the presentation of poetry that's been composed, polished, and rehearsed for the purpose of being performed...[it] electrifies and animates the people listening to and watching it..." (Kraynak 3)
"'SLAM' IS...
- POETRY
- PERFORMED
- COMPETITIVE
- INTERACTIVE
- COMMUNITY" (Kraynak 5-6)


TEACHING IDEAS/MINI LESSONS


In the article Fifty-Five Teachers, Poems in Hand, Approach the Cruelest Month, the following is stated in reference to one teacher's approach to introducing slam poetry into her classroom: "students discover specific qualities of poetry - to develop insights about diction, tone, and voice - but they avoid terminology until and unless it is needed [...] Never mind whether they made 'right decisions'; what we want to hear is what they thought about" (Brewbaker 21).

1. POETRY SLAM : STARTING OUT (May need more than one class to finish...)
Ø Students choose ONE topic that they are passionate about or a topic which they feel needs attention (such as: an environmental issue). Ø Students are given time to brainstorm and write down random thoughts or words that come to their mind about their chosen topic. The point of this activity is to give students the opportunity to come up with a non-structured poetic art piece, which they will eventually present to the class. The main focus is to ensure that students find a sense of meaning and emotion behind their writing. Students should be given the opportunity to read their poetic pieces to other students (in small groups), and should be given time to proofread, edit, and rehearse their work.ØAfter each student is satisfied with their poetic work, they perform their slam poetry to the class. Students in the class can vote on which slams they enjoyed the most. ØThe top 3 slammers can have the opportunity to present their poetry slams to the entire school or even audition for a slam poetry competition in Canada or elsewhere...
LINKS TO ARTICLES: · http://www.jstor.org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/stable/30039299?&Search=yes&term=Performing&term=Identity&term=Politics&term=Somers-Willett&term=Cultural&term=Susan&term=A.&term=B.&term=Poetry&term=Slam&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3DSlam%2BPoetry%2Band%2Bthe%2BCultural%2BPolitics%2Bof%2BPerforming%2BIdentity%2BSusan%2BB.%2BA.%2BSomers-Willett%2B%26gw%3Djtx%26acc%3Don%26prq%3Dpoetry%2Bslam%2Bdebates%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=1&ttl=1&returnArticleService=showFullTextC
· Google Scholars Online: Take the Mic: The Art of Performance Poetry, Slam, and the Spoken Word by Mark Kelly Smith, Joe Kraynak
2. SONNET SLAM
"The Sonnet Slam gives students the opportunity to play the sonneteer, and in so doing builds a working familiarity with and an appreciation of the sonnet's subtle complexities. As one of our colleagues wrote, 'Phrases like enjambment, inverted sentence structure, iamb, and trochee' don't necessarily come up all that often (even in class), but at the slam they were flying across the table as students tried to construct a workable and winning sonnet" (Melnikoff)
Ø For instance, students take a Petrarchan sonnet about unrequited love and in turn write their own sonnet while maintaining the same theme and context of the original sonnet. Students should have two or three literary elements that they must use in re-writing these sonnets (such as: irony, metaphor, alliteration, etc.)
Ø Students replace old English with their every day (common) language. By doing this, students can incorporate and maintain the historical elements of the work at hand, but can actually relate to what the sonnet is saying. Ø Students can use humourous language and scenarios to express their own sonnets - so long as their sonnets have clearly laid out intentions and concepts.
LINK TO ARTICLE:
http://muse.jhu.edu.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/journals/pedagogy/v007/7.2melnikoff.html

ASSESSMENT FOR THIS TYPE OF POETRY UNIT
This Wiki addresses the following general expectations under the strand "WRITING", found in the Ontario Curriculum (Grades 11 and 12) (pg. 50):
  1. Developing and Organizing Content: generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience.
  2. Using Knowledge of Form and Style: draft and revise their writing, using a variety of literacy, informational, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience.
  3. Applying Knowledge of Conventions: use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expression, and present their work effectively.
  4. Reflecting on Skills and Strategies: reflect on and identify their strenghts as writers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful at different stages in the writing process.

In relation to Principles Underlying the English Curriculum on page 4 of The Ontario Curriculum Grades 11 and 12, this wiki - "poetry as a performance" - adheres to the following principles:


üunderstand that language learning is a necessary, life-enhancing, reflective process ücommunicate - that is, read, listen, view, speak, write, and represent - effectively and with confidence
ü make meaningful connections between themselves, what they encounter in texts, and the world around them
ü think critically
ü understand that all texts advance a particular point of view that must be recognized, questioned, assessed, and evaluated
ü appreciate the cultural impact and aesthetic power of texts
ü use language to interact and connect with individuals and communities, for personal growth, and for active participation as world citizens

Ø POSSIBLE CHALLENGES...Ø Ensuring a "risk-free" environment for students: Ensuring creativity and openness in the classroom Ø Making sure students choose appropriate topics and or subjects (run their topics by the teacher first as not to offend anyone) Ø Trying to embrace the "common language", but at the same time, trying to introduce "elevated" and "poetic" language into the classroom
ARTICLES (REFERENCES)
Brewbaker, James. "Fifty-Five Teachers, Poems in Hand, Approach the Cruellest Month." The
English Journal 94.4 (2005): 18-22. JSTOR. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.

Kammer, Joel. "From John Donne to the Last Poets: An Eclectic Approach to Poetry." The
English Journal 91.3 (2002): 64-71. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2010.

Melnikoff, Kirk and Jennifer Munroe. "Seasoning the Sonnet, Playing Poets." Pedagogy 7.2
(2007): 251-257. Project Muse. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.


Smith, Marc and Joe Kraynak. Take the Mic: The Art of Performance Poetry, Slam, and the Spoken Word. Sourcebooks Inc., 2009. Print.
Somers-Willett, Susan."Slam Poetry and the Cultural Politics of Performing Identity." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 38.1 (2005): 51-73. JSTOR. Web. 24 Sept. 2010.


TEACHER RESOURCES/FURTHER READING
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 11 and 12: English www.edu.gov.on.ca
Shuck, Gail. " Conversational Performance and the Poetic Construction of an Ideology ." Language in Society 33.2 (2004): 195-222. JSTOR. Web. 25 Sept. 2010