Spoken Word Lesson Plan

  1. Themes

– Empowerment through self-exploration, self-identifying, and expressing ideas.

– Considering the ideas of others, holding space for others’ self-expression in individual and collaborative exercises, and sharing. Fostering a sense of community by encouraging students to appreciate and respect a diversity of personalities and cultures – including their own.

– Experimenting with language in poetic forms. Connecting and responding to texts, video + art to create original, constructive, and persuasive performance pieces.

– Goal setting that reflects holding space as well as personal, creative and constructive outcomes.

  1. Goals

– To encourage students towards self-empowerment through self-identification and personal expression.

– To build on communication skills; to gain an understanding of effective writing and performance tactics; to associate expression with listening and identifying with an audience.

– To build safe space of sharing and collaboration/cooperation.

– Learning historical and current contexts of spoken word in its various forms, and as a social justice movement. Empowering students to critically respond to their environment, community and culture.

– To demonstrate creativity by using artistic elements in the creation and workshopping of spoken word pieces to be shared and discussed with the group.

  1. Concepts

– Poetic devices/tools (image, metaphor, similie, rhythm, etc.).

– Effective communication – written and oral.

– Cultural and historic contexts: Beat Poetry, hip hop, counterculture movement, human rights revolution (African American movement, Feminism, Truth and Reconciliation).

  1. Cultural Exemplars

– Historical discussion on poetry as performance art and counterculture movement, focusing in on the Beat Poets and counterculture movements of 60’s and 70’s; Marc Smith, creator of the poetry slam concept in the 80’s as more of a social/cultural movement versus a style or art form; modern day applications (National Poetry Slams) and dissemination of slam poetry via the internet/YouTube/TedTalks.

– Presentation of YouTube videos of popular slam poets in Canada, including Sabrina Benaim (“Explaining My Depression to My Mother”), IF the Poet (“The ADHD Poem)” Shayne Koyczan (“To This Day”), etc.

– Discussions that analyze performance components as effective tools of communication (body language, voice, etc.) as a means of responding to the world in and around them.

– Audio and texts representing social issues and/or poetic styles that students may mimic with their own writing and performance (using the rhythm/metre of “Green Eggs and Ham” to write a piece on respecting personal boundaries in the student’s own voice).

  1. Sequence of Events

– Introduction to spoken word and slam movement, including video presentation and a performance by myself.

– Sharing circles – to warm students up to expressing themselves to each other, building off of improv games such as “Two Truths and a Lie,” and writing exercises that root each individual in their identity, environment, and intentions towards their creative expression.

– Discussions and exercises that deconstruct oral communication devices, and to enable the use of poetic tools in writing sessions and improv games.

– Once students have been equipped with knowledge and experience in writing and sharing, they will be prompted to write pieces (poem, rant, monologue, etc.) that make use of devices, but most importantly, contain a message that is backed up with constructive and persuasive arguments.

– Those pieces will then be the basis for workshops that will polish them up into effective performance pieces that both connect with an audience and persuade them to buy in to the poets’ point of view. Exercises will encourage positive, constructive feedback from group members.

– The unit will wrap up in a sharing circle/open mic, where each student is encouraged to share their writing, whether from the lesson, or something they wrote on their own time.

  1. Evaluation Procedures

– In response to the introductory video presentation, students will discuss: “what makes a good slam poem/performance?” “what does it mean to be a good audience member?” and “what kind of reaction do you want to receive from the audience (what does that look like on their faces and in their behaviour)?”

– Students may be given a scoring rubric (similar to this one) to be used to evaluate other individual or group presentations.

– Students will self/peer evaluate throughout the unit, seeing how, as an example, group Improv exercises rely on effective communication to complete a task.

– Workshop/editing exercises will encourage safe, constructive feedback along the lines of responding in this form: 2 things you liked about the piece or that you think worked effectively, and 2 things that you are having trouble understanding or connecting with/don’t work for you.


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