Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth


Two special elements of the program need additional explanation: the Poetry Slam and the choral reading.

How to set up a poetry slam

What is it? A poetry slam is a performance in which poets read their work and are judged. In the Poetry Slam featured in Workshops 12-15, the competitive element is removed so participants can simply enjoy the experience and not worry about winning.

Why do it? Performing their work will encourage youth to pay attention to how their poems are understood and received. Performing a Poetry Slam that the entire congregation can attend creates a multigenerational experience. It provides an opportunity for youth to demonstrate what the Poetry program is about.

... and how: Read through Workshops 12-15 before starting the program and decide if you will include the poetry slam or be ready to present the option to youth at your first meeting. The details will vary from congregation to congregation. Workshops 12-15 outline the steps you need to take. If you feel your group needs more time to rehearse, change the order of the workshops. A polished performance is nice, but more important yet is that the experience is fun and affirming for the youth.

How to set up and conduct a choral reading

What is it? A choral reading is a fusion of more than one piece of writing (usually poems) into a new, unified, whole performed as an out-loud reading. The readers/performers use choral devices like repetition, overlap, and volume variation.

Why do it? Choral reading helps participants know the poems intimately, and know the other participants well too! In being thoughtful and intentional about selecting the words, phrases, and lines from the works to be fused, youth are forced to think deeply about the meaning and strengths of each piece and what they have to say to each other.

... and how: After reading and discussing a body of work (a set of poems, in this case), break the group into smaller groups of between five and ten people. Ask them to construct and practice a choral reading that incorporates elements from all of the given works (four is a good number of poems to draw from). Have the small groups use works that are familiar to everyone in the group. Instruct the groups to select words, lines, and moments from each poem, then decide when, where, and how to weave these elements into an out-loud performance.

In addition, have the groups decide what each participant will read and when and how to present the choral reading, such as standing, sitting in a circle, pacing, speaking, whispering, shouting, or singing.

When rehearsal time is over, groups may perform their readings for each other. Workshops 11-14 include a Faith in Action option for preparing a choral reading to present during the Poetry Slam. Participants may also choose to present a choral reading during a worship service or other congregational gathering.