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

Activity 1: Poetry Slam Review

Activity time: 40 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Journals
  • Pens or pencils
  • Blank thank-you cards
  • Postage stamps (optional)

Preparation for Activity

  • To add a celebratory note to this final meeting, consider having refreshments. Program leaders can either provide them or ask families in advance to contribute food and drink. If congregational policies allow such actions, you can consider meeting in a nearby coffeehouse or restaurant.
  • Write the following choices of means of review on newsprint:
    • Prepare a one page, journal-style response to planning and presenting the Poetry Slam.
    • Write a poem about the experience of presenting poetry, from the perspective of either a reader/performer or an organizer responsible for another aspect of the Poetry Slam.
    • Write three to five open-ended questions you would like to ask an audience member after the poetry event. Yes/No questions such as "Did you like it?" are not allowed!

Description of Activity

Participants evaluate the Poetry Slam experience.

Direct participants to gather, and make sure everyone has their journal and a pencil or pen. Explain that although it is natural to want to analyze the poems and the event itself, this writing exercise is intended to give participants a chance to describe their personal experiences, not make judgments; to express their feelings, not their opinions.

Read the writing choices aloud. Ask participants to choose one and start writing. Tell those who choose the second option that, regardless of their actual role in the event, they may write their poem from any perspective, except the audience's. After four or five minutes, ask participants if they would like to stop and share their thoughts or if they prefer more time to write. If participants wish, give them several more minutes to work.

Invite participants to read aloud part or all of what they have written. Thank each participant for contributing his/her reflections.

In follow-up conversation, explore what different people felt during the experience. Point out both shared and differing feelings. Deflect critiques of the poetry or the event itself. It may be hard to tell the difference between feelings and opinions; let the group help you.

Now invite the group to critique. Explain that "I didn't like... " is most useful when accompanied by a thoughtful "because... " Use these guide questions:

  • How well did we honor our poems? In that regard, what worked and what did not?
  • How well did we honor our audience and make it easy for its members to truly listen? What worked and what did not?
  • Did we feel a connection between the poems and the audience? Were the poems truly heard? Why?

Thank everyone for participating in the Poetry Slam and for the openness, creativity, and responsibility they contributed to the entire project. Invite participants to write thank-you notes to anyone who was not involved in the workshop but played a significant role in supporting the Poetry Slam. If mailing is necessary, assign someone to mail the thank-you cards.