A poetry slam is similar to an open-mic poetry party, with a key difference: Poetry slams are competitive events in which poets perform their work in front of an audience and judges. Poetry slams are known for their lively, energetic atmosphere and often feature poets performing original works.
During a poetry slam, poets take the stage one at a time to perform their work. They are often given a time limit, usually three to five minutes, to perform their poem. After each poet performs, the judges score their performance based on criteria such as originality, creativity, delivery, and overall impact.
At the end of the event, the scores are totaled and the poet with the highest score is declared the winner. Poetry slams are often held at schools, community centers, and other public venues and can be a fun and engaging way for young poets to share their work and for audiences to discover new and exciting voices.
How to Host a Poetry Slam
A poetry slam is a great way for students in an elementary school to express themselves creatively and build confidence in public speaking. This is especially true if students are sharing funny poems or poems with engaging narratives. There is almost nothing better than the applause of your peers for overcoming a fear of public speaking and becoming a more confident presenter.
If you would like to host a poetry slam at your school, here are some steps you can follow:
Choose a theme: Decide on a theme for the poetry slam. This could be something broad like “self-expression” or something more specific like “nature.” The theme will give the students a focus for their poems and help them come up with ideas.
Recruit judges: Find a group of teachers, parents, or other community members who are willing to serve as judges for the poetry slam. Choose judges who are open-minded and willing to listen to a variety of styles and viewpoints.
Encourage participation: Let students know about the poetry slam and encourage them to participate. You can do this through announcements, flyers, or by setting up a sign-up sheet.
Maybe start a poetry club: Consider starting a poetry club for interested students, where you can hold workshops or after-school sessions to help students write and polish their poems. These workshops can be led by teachers, students, or even local poets.
Set rules: Establish some basic rules for the poetry slam. For example, students should be encouraged to write their own poems and to avoid using profanity or other inappropriate language.
Prepare: Encourage students to select and rehearse their poems before the event. This will help them feel more comfortable and confident when it’s time to perform. Below, I have included several tips on how to help students prepare.
Host the event: On the day of the poetry slam, set up a stage or designated area where the students can perform. Have the judges sit at a table in front of the stage, and provide a microphone and sound system for the students.
Judge the performances: Have the judges score each performance based on criteria such as originality, creativity, delivery, and overall impact. The student with the highest score wins the poetry slam. You can also have a grand prize winner as well as second and third-prize winners.
Celebrate the winners: After the poetry slam, celebrate the winners and all of the participants. You can do this with a small ceremony, perhaps with a ribbon, medal, or certificate, and possibly by displaying the winning poems around the school.
How to Prepare
In addition to planning for the poetry slam itself, students will need to prepare for the event too. There are several ways that students can practice and prepare to participate in a poetry slam:
Write, write, write: Encourage students to write as many poems as they can. The more they write, the more comfortable they’ll become with the writing process and the more likely they are to come up with a poem they’re proud to perform. They can find lots of poetry writing lessons here.
Look for inspiration: Encourage students to find inspiration for their poems from their own experiences, observations, and emotions. They can also be inspired by the poetry of others or by current events and issues. One of the easiest things to write about is something you really like or enjoy. For example, if your favorite thing is playing hockey, consider writing a poem about hockey. If you’d rather play Pokémon, try writing about that.
Workshops: Consider holding workshops or after-school sessions to help students write and polish their poems. These workshops can be led by teachers, students, or local poets and can be a great way for students to get feedback on their work and to learn new writing techniques.
Practice reading aloud: Encourage students to rehearse performing their poems aloud to get a feel for the rhythm and flow of their words. This will help them deliver their poem with confidence and clarity. For ideas on how to rehearse, have a look at this article I wrote on How to Recite a Poem Like an Expert.
Hosting a poetry slam can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the students and the school community. By following these steps, you can create a successful and memorable event.
You might have heard that every year, the month of April is National Poetry Month. But did you know that we also celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day every April as well? This is a day when people all over the United States will be sharing their favorite poem with their families, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors.
The town of Charlottesville in Virginia has an annual tradition of celebrating this day together. Lots of people volunteer to pass out printed poems all over town, and they also have an open mic poetry event the night before Poem in Your Pocket Day to kick off the celebration. There are also special Poem in Your Pocket events every year in other large cities, such as New York.
Here are 10 easy and fun ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day this year:
Write a short poem on an index card and tape or thumbtack it to a public bulletin board. Or you could use just one stanza from a longer poem. Be sure to give the title and author so that people who read it can look up the full poem on their own.
If you don’t have a pocket, think of other places to store folded-up poems. How about tucked into the top of in your sock?
Email your favorite poem to a pen pal or family member who lives far away.
Ask your parent, teacher, or school librarian to help you arrange a poem swap for your class or neighborhood, in which everyone brings a printed copy of their favorite poem and swaps it for someone else’s poem.
If you use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you can post a photo of your favorite poem and include the hashtag #pocketpoem.
Leave a printed copy of your poem between the pages of a library book. It will be a surprise for the next reader!
If your family often visits a senior center or nursing home, print several copies of a poem to share and give it to the people you see when you visit that day. Or ask the person at the information desk if you can leave a pile of poems for visitors to take to their loved ones.
Encourage people to ask you about your poem. You can do this by wearing a sticker on your shirt or bookbag that says, “It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Ask me about my favorite poem.”
If your family members take their lunch to school or work, slip a poem into their lunch bags. Better yet, put in two poems—one for them to keep and one for them to give away to a friend!
Come up with creative ways to share your poem if you don’t want to print out or write out your poem on paper. For example, you could write a short poem on the back of your hand and read it out loud to people you meet.
No matter how you decide to celebrate, you can make Poem in Your Pocket Day special and fun for yourself—and everyone you meet. Just choose a poem to share, and the possibilities are endless!
The winter holidays can be a fun and exciting time for both kids and adults. This year, why not integrate poetry into your family’s celebrations of the season? Add literary flair to your family’s traditions by including poems in your festivities.
Here are three simple ways to incorporate poetry into your seasonal celebrations.
Chances are, your Thanksgiving celebration usually includes a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and perhaps a chance for each family member to say what he or she is grateful for. But this year you can add a new and fun twist to your family’s Thanksgiving tradition by giving poetry a place in the festivities. Reading a poem aloud is an engaging way to bring attention to what is most sacred and special about this holiday.
Here are four Thanksgiving poems that are wonderful to read out loud, either in unison (all voices together) or by taking turns reading each verse.
“Over the River and Through the Wood” by Lydia Maria Child
If this Thanksgiving poem sounds familiar, it’s probably because a version of it has been set to music. In the song version, some of the lyrics are about Christmas rather than Thanksgiving. Here is an excerpt from the original poem:
Your world is shaped by the information you take in through your senses. You know which ice cream you like best because of your taste buds. You know that you shouldn’t touch the stove top because of your sense of touch. The sirens warn you to get out of the way! And most importantly, your sense of smell keeps you away from the toxic stench emanating from the facilities after your brother spends an hour “resting!”
But what if you couldn’t trust those senses anymore? That’s exactly what happens in the following poem, where the character’s senses turn up all backward. Imagine describing the spray of a skunk as delightful, and the smell of a rose as hideous. People would think you were crazy! Do you think this poem is a bit crazy?
Have you ever been raising your hand so long that it starts to tingle, go numb, and you swear it’s going to fall off any second… but the teacher just doesn’t call your name? In this poem, the kid in the very back of the class is going through just that.
Personification is one tool that writers use to bring their words to life. You can imagine a “sleeping meadow,” or darkness that crept in on the moon’s billowing cape. But personification doesn’t just have to be beautiful or haunting… it can also be really funny!
In the following poem, it is the personification of what the banana is unable to do that makes the experience hilarious. When you read the poem out loud, imagine the banana actually doing these things! Now, imagine your disappointment if you actually thought a banana could fetch and run and bow.
Get Jumping! Making Playground Poetry Using Jump-Rope Rhymes
Did you know that kids have been skipping rope—or playing some type of very similar game—for hundreds of years? In the United States, skipping rope was a common way for city kids to play in the streets together from the early 1900s through the 1940s. A special version of jumping rope, called Double Dutch because it uses two jump ropes at the same time, was introduced to the children of New York City by Dutch families who had immigrated to America. Double Dutch later became a competitive sport worldwide.
Kids today still enjoy chanting or singing rhyming poems while they skip rope. Jump-rope rhymes allow you to combine the fun of poetry with the physical activity of skipping rope—a great way to stay physically fit while entertaining your brain!
Some of the jump-rope rhymes that you’ve heard on the playground or at the park are probably the same ones that your parents or grandparents used to recite when they were kids. Maybe you know this one:
When it comes to poetry recitals, it’s not unusual to feel a bit nervous; why not lighten the mood by turning the event into a game?
Whether your group are studying a particular poem, poet or topic – or whether you’ve been writing your own poems – you can bring some excitement to the event by creating a ‘lucky-dip’. A ‘lucky-dip’ is a British game, where small prizes are concealed inside a large container, and players have to reach inside and grab one without being able to see what it is. In this recital game, the prizes are the poetry!
First, decide what you will be reciting. The text will need to be printed onto slips of paper. If you have been looking at one particular poem, each slip could have one line or phrase; if you have been studying a poet, or a theme, the slips could have short extracts of relevant poems; if your group have written their own poems, each one could be printed on an individual slip… Make sure you have enough printed slips for everybody in the group to receive one!
Beginning in 1996, April has been declared National Poetry Month in the US. This tradition was started by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poets and the wonderful things that poetry can bring to our lives.
There are plenty of ways for kids to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: