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Faith In Action: Practicing The Choral Reading (40 minutes), Workshop 13: Planning A Poetry Slam

In "Exploring Our Values Through Poetry," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Poems submitted by the congregation
  • Paper, pens or pencils, or computer and printer
  • Optional: Copier

Preparation for Activity

  • Collect poems submitted by the congregation, in either hard copy or electronic form.

Description of Activity

Participants blend pieces of poems into one poem to perform as a choral reading at the Poetry Slam.

Seek enough volunteers to each read one poem aloud. From each poem, have youth choose words, phrases, or entire lines because they like how they sound, they are central to the meaning of the poem, or for any reason at all. Remind participants that you will be using pieces of every contributed poem to construct a new, hybrid poem; each poem must be represented in your final choral reading, even if only by a single word. Youth must select words and phrases in a way that ensures everyone is heard and involved in the process. Be prepared for friendly arguments!

From among the participants, choose a "scribe" who has neat handwriting. Ask the scribe to write chosen words, phrases, and lines on newsprint.

Assemble a script from the chosen material. Then make performance decisions, such as:

  • Decide who will recite each piece of the reading and the order in which the material will be recited. Each person's voice must be heard at some point in the choral reading. Will you use repetition in your performance? Will you vary the volume? Will you whisper? Shout? Sing? Will you overlap words?
  • Will you add music? If so, what music will you use and who will bring it?
  • Will the audience have a spoken part? If so, does the part need to be printed in the program or can it be easily learned during the performance?
  • Think of the space in which you will perform: Where will you stand in relation to one another? Will you move within the space?

Your choral reading may not make sense or tell a story. However, do not be surprised if it does end up sounding cohesive and powerful.

Practice! You can use a script when you read, but run through the reading a few times to be sure everyone is comfortable with her/his part; when each voice comes in and whatever else you will each be doing.

Allow at least thirty minutes to prepare for rehearsal. As the youths work, observe and offer support. Before dispersing, review the jobs that still need doing. If you received permission to distribute copies of the original poems, how will you distribute copies? Will you produce an insert for the program? Who will make copies? Is there information that needs to be reported to the Production Crew or Publicity Planners? Are there audio-visual needs that require attention or props to be gathered? If participants appear uneasy, is another rehearsal possible?

Including All Participants

To ensure inclusiveness and fair treatment, monitor the process by which the group decides who will do what in the choral reading. If your group is large, consider dividing it into teams. Each team would use an assigned portion of the chosen words to write a stanza.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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