Poetry as Art and Activism
Poetry as Art and Activism is a lesson that employs spoken word poetry as a learning approach to the traditional classroom setting in an effort to hook students and compel them to let their voices be heard. Spoken word poetry has become, and is traditionally based on, activism. It is a tool utilized mostly by younger generations to express their opinions and tell their own stories. Spoken word is the poetry of people who have been repressed in some way; it has been an important aspect of the feminist, anti-war and anti-discrimination movements (among many others).
In this lesson, students will explore spoken word poetry as one of many intersections between art and activism through examples from poets Sara Kay, Shane Koyczan, Sunni Patterson, and many more. As an extremely personal, passionate, and interactive tool, students will write their own spoken word poems in relation to global issues (like sustainable development, bullying, global citizenship, violence against women, etc.) that affect youth across the world.
Time Required: 150 minutes (two class periods) *Note: Additional time may be needed for students to preset their own spoken word poems.
1. Students will approach poetry as a lens in which their own stories and opinions can be told.
2. Students will learn that poetry is a form of activism, engaging and partaking in the future of our society.
3. Students will define, identify and analyze spoken word poems.
4. Students will create their own spoken word poems on global issues influencing youth locally and across the world.
1. Minds On Activity: “Speech,” “Words” and “Poetry”
- Around the classroom, post the words “speech,” “words,” and “poetry” on chart paper (each word on its own piece of paper).
- Give each student a marker. Have them walk around the class and write whatever comes to their minds in association with each word. They can write people, places, emotions, other words, questions, etc.
- Have the class do this for about 15 minutes.
- Regroup as a class and poise this question:
• How can these three words be connected? (* Answer is: Spoken word poetry)
2. Activity One: Sara Kay’s TED Talk and “Ten Things I Know to be True”
- Play Sara Kay’s TED Talk,”If I should have a daughter…” as an introduction to what spoken word poetry is and how it can be used by youth as a form of social change:
- When the video is finished, write on the board, “Ten Things I Know to be True” (the activity poised by Sara in the video)
- Tell your students to take out a piece of paper (or, perhaps, their creative writing notebook or journal) and write down the ten things they know to be true.
- Have them get into groups of 3-5 and share with the group what they wrote. Once they have finished, go around and have each student say "one" thing they wrote in the list.
- Teacher can note similarities or differences or interesting things if they want.
- Ask the following question:
• How can the act of poetry be used to advocate for change?
- Write a list of answers on the board.
- Then, ask:
• What types of local and global issues can be conveyed through poetry?
- Again, make a list on the board (i.e. bullying, gender equality, human rights, etc.)
- Move into examples of some of these issues
3. Activity Two: Spoken Word as Activism on Local and Global Issues
- Play the following videos:
• Shane Koyczan's, "To This Day Project"
• Sunni Patterson's, "We Know This Place"
• Andrea Gibson and Katie Wirsing's rendition of "Blue Blanket"
- As a class, you can discuss:
• the students' reaction to each video
• what emotions where evoked
• which issue is being depicted
• how well each poem articulates the message.
- Move onto a close examination of a spoken word poem
4. Activity Three: Raymond Carver's "Fear"
- Students read the poem “Fear” by Raymond Carter and analyze its structure making
note of particular techniques such as rhythm, repetition, irony, tension, etc.
- Students (in the same groups from before) will each take turns reading it aloud and comment on how, based on the individual's perspective or choice, will sound different.
- Move onto the Spoken Word Poetry Assignment
5. Activity Four: Spoken Word Poetry Assignment
- Now that students are familiar with examples of spoken word, it is time to have them write and perform their own.
- The assignment should have a focus on "Taking Action" or "Speaking Up" against certain issues in the local or global community.
- Some topics can include:
• Cultural Diversity
• Global Citizenship
• Religious Freedom
• Peer Pressure and Bullying
• Aboriginal Rights
• The Environment
• Animal Rights
• Food and Nutrition
• Social Justice
• Child Labor
• Slavery and Human Trafficking
• Mental Health
• Child and Youth Rights
• Human Rights
• Gender Equality
• Freedom of Expression
• Popular Culture
• Peace and Conflict
• Creativity and Innovation
- On the day the assignment is due (decided by the teacher), students should present their poem (choice of having it memorized or not should be provided) to the class.
*Note: These poems can be post to the TIGed Website to share with the world and act as forms of activism for change!!
Spoken Word Poetry Assignment
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Web Pages Used
No comments have been posted yet. You could be first!
Please login to post a comment.