But in my mind, shouldn’t all picture books be great read alouds? I guess there are many instances where they wouldn’t have to be such as nonfiction picture books or those peaceful “quiet” picture books. I think I’m just partial to those fun rollicking laugh out loud “performance” picture books because (as a former first grade teacher) I love entertaining children.
When I taught first grade in the past, I loved having my students study and learn to write poetry. In fact, I was so obsessed with it, that I would often do poetry all year long and sometimes steal time from other subjects just to have more time for poetry. After my students would write their own poems, I would have them perform this poetry in front of their parents at a Poetry Café Night. Everyone loved it. And even though we did talk about the elements of performing their poetry, these things weren’t thought about during the writing process. It was only after the poetry was written did we consider how it would be performed.
Over the past few years I’ve discovered a type of performance writing where all those elements are considered as part of the writing process. This form of poetry is called Spoken Word Poetry.
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Arts defines it as the following:
Spoken word poetry is poetry that is written on a page but performed for an audience. Because it is performed, this poetry tends to demonstrate a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, free association, rhymes, rich poetic phrases, word play and slang. It is more aggressive and “in your face” than more traditional forms of poetry.
These are the types of poems that you would hear in a Poetry Café or at a Poetry Slam. These poems are great for self-expression. And for this reason, I would love to further explore this idea with the students I teach. But also, I’d like to explore it more for myself as an author. When I write a picture book, I don’t want to just sit down and write a story. I want to write a story that is performance worthy.
Below are a few links to some great performance poems. (I’m in the process of trying to collect poems that are “age” appropriate for little ears.) Because of the nature of the emotional subjects in the poems, it’s hard to find ones that can be shared with elementary students. But I’m determined to find them. (So if you come across some, please let me know.)
Reading Allowed (as in permitted.) by Taylor Mali
(Start at minute 1:10 to skip all the funny, but racy stuff at the beginning.)
Because once upon a time
we grew up on stories
and the voices in which they were told.
We need words to hold us,
for the world to behold us
for us to truly know our own souls.
What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali
Letter to a Playground Bully by Andrea Gibson
Alicia Keys P.O.W.
I’m a prisoner of words unsaid.
Just lonely feelings locked away in my head.
I trap myself further every time I stay quiet.
I should start to speak but I stop and stay silent.
And now I’ve made my own hard bed
Inside this prison of words unsaid.
There is an amazing project called Project Voice that can teach students to become Spoken Word Poets.
This is a spoken word poem by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye about how they met and started Project Voice.
Some of my goals in exploring Spoken Word Poetry:
· Create a collection of Spoken Word Poetry suitable for younger students.
· Bring Project Voice to my students and teach them how to write and perform it.
· Study some of the spoken word poems and analyze them for their poetic elements and use what I’ve learned in my picture books.
Some additional Spoken Word Poems:
Why I Hate School But Love Education- Suli Breaks
I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate- Suli Breaks
To This Day Project -Shane Koyczan
Have you ever heard of Spoken Word before? Do you know of any good ones? If so, share them below.
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