Spoken Word Expression Part 1


I’ve always had a respect for poetry because it’s such a beautiful way to express oneself. However, slam poetry is all about the competition, performance and how the poets make us, the audience, feel. Slam incorporates the emotions of spoken word and body movement which helps exudes the author’s message whether it is about their life or society. Slam originated in Chicago by a poet named Marc Smith in 1986. That generation of poets used spoken word to bring light to racial, economic and gender injustices which we can see the influence today.

I recently introduced slam poetry to my students in order for them to have an outlet to express themselves and have a chance to compete locally and nationally. At my school, students have two periods a week where they work on their interests in a form of a project. Some of these projects include fashion & cosmetology, robotics, guitar, culinary arts, etc. These projects allow students to explore different interests that don’t necessarily include academics. I will be hosting a project this semester based on spoken word and slam.

...it was beautiful seeing students come out of their shells to talk about Black beauty, a brother’s death, self-love, police brutality...

I already began working with students before officially starting the project. I was contacted with an organization called The Loud Project which focuses on training and having high school students compete in slam competitions all around the country. With their assistance, I was able to host the school’s very first SLAM night where 15 students competed. The top 3 winners will compete in the next round in order to make it on the team that will later then compete nationally in Chicago later this year. During the SLAM night, it was beautiful seeing students come out of their shells to talk about Black beauty, a brother’s death, self-love, police brutality etc. and witnessing other students support the poets tremendously.

For this semester, my focus will be on teaching 20 students what spoken word and slam is and giving them the space to write and perform their pieces. While we do this on a weekly basis, my students will also be preparing for performances they will do for our annual Black History Month celebration, preparing for a competition through Rutgers University- Newark, and hosting SLAM nights.

I officially started this project on January 29th, 2018 so I will keep everyone updated on how it will go!  If you want to get your school involved with spoken word and slam, all you need is two hours a week. Here is my plan for the semester. Feel free to use it in your classroom!

Samaa Elbery is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. She is currently working on a Master’s Degree in the Arts of Education with Relay Graduate School of Education-Newark. She is a high school teacher in an urban district teaching biology and engineering. 

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