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

Activity 3: You And The Poetry Slam, Part I

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint and markers
  • Journals

Preparation for Activity

  • Write the date, time, and place for the Poetry Slam on the newsprint. You could also list the discussion questions (see Description of Activity, below, for the questions).
  • Be ready to direct participants toward specific resources if they choose to select and perform poems by published authors. Possible books and websites are listed in Find Out More, below.

Description of Activity

The group comes together to shape their Poetry Slam. Before leaving at the end of this workshop, each participant will decide whether to work on crafting her/his own original poetry for performance, select and practice a poem by another poet for performance; or play a behind-the-scenes role in the Poetry Slam.

Announce that the group needs to plan the logistics of the Poetry Slam. Start by making sure everyone knows the date, time, and place for the event.

To keep ideas for the next workshop, ask a volunteer to record the ideas generated in the discussion that follows, the poems participants suggest, and the roles participants decide to take. Have the group consider and decide:

  • How many youth should read or perform poems? Who will volunteer?
  • Should participants read in pairs, groups, or one at a time?
  • Should the event include music? When, how, and who?
  • Should the event include a choral reading (see Faith in Action for details for creating the choral poem)? For now, youth need to know that a choral reading involves making several poems into one poem to be read by a group.

Once the group has established some event parameters, facilitate the assignment of roles. Encourage each person to choose a role from the following list:

  • Read/perform their own poetry
  • Read/perform another poet's work
  • Participate in the choral reading (optional; see Faith in Action)
  • Emcee to introduce reader/performers
  • Volunteer for a behind-the-scenes task such as producing advance publicity, setting up the room, ushering guests, operating audio/visual equipment including microphones, assisting with an optional fund-raiser, or collecting tickets

Encourage individuals to commit to specific roles until all key roles are filled.

While it can be a good idea to expose shy youths to performance possibilities and, likewise, a poor idea to assume that quiet youths prefer a backstage role, be mindful that pushing someone into a role s/he is uncomfortable with can backfire. The youth may feel unsuccessful, and the job may not get done.

NOTE: In this model, the leader acts as the event's producer and director and oversees all roles and decision-making processes. However, one or more participants in your group may be capable of and want to take a leadership role in planning the order of poems for the event, stage-managing the event, preparing flyers or event programs, or leading the optional fund-raising activities. When you place a participant in a leadership role, be sure to support the youth by providing a clear scope of responsibility, resources (such as yourself, other participants, use of an office photocopier, and the like), and appreciation.

Before the group meets for the next workshop, participants who plan to read a poem aloud should (a) either write their own poem or pick a previously written poem from their journal, or choose a poem by another poet; and (b) practice performing the poem. Participants who offer to do advance publicity may draft a flyer before or during the next workshop. Inform them about print publicity that has already been placed.

Give participants five minutes to talk with others they need to work with and make plans for the next workshop. Publicity people might bring art for a flyer. Audio/visual coordinators might start a list of equipment they need. Poetry readers could practice or decide the order in which they will read.

Including All Participants

If possible, use a microphone for the performance. Explain to participants that this is important because sometimes it is difficult for those with hearing impairments to speak up and ask for amplification. By providing a microphone without being asked, you avoid putting people in an uncomfortable position. In addition, see if your congregation has assisted listening devices for the hearing impaired, noting that these only work when a sound system is used.