To have great poets, there must be great audiences too.
As was mentioned in our October 11 installment of the primer about the district’s literacy initiatives, Colchester High School has been hosting poetry slams for the last five years. Poetry slams are events showcasing performance poetry, and performers are judged by the audience on their use of style, content, and emotion, which encourages widespread participation. (Experts like the Breathing Poetry Project’s Kim Jordan and Vermont’s Slam Poet Laureate Geof Hewitt have helped out with CHS’s poetry slams in past years, and the annual event has become hugely popular with students.)
This year’s poetry slam at CHS, which was spearheaded by Humanities teachers Sean MacArdle and Erin Brady, was held on December 9. All tenth-grade Humanities teachers assisted with the organization of the event, and a number of drama students also offered their expertise with the lighting and sound technology. Scores of students, almost all of whom participated in classroom poetry slams in the days leading up to the December 9 event, signed up to participate in front of an audience consisting of their classmates as well as the administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals who work with them. The aforementioned Vermont Slam Poet Laureate Geof Hewitt served as the slam master, having led tenth graders in workshops in advance.
The poetry slams are an important literary initiative because, over the years, students have frequently regarded them as being among their favorite activities at Colchester High School, and the event challenges them to fine-tune their writing, encouraging them to develop their own distinctive voice and purpose. And as a result of the slams, many students are inspired to perform original poetry in the CHS Coffeehouse open mic series.
How else do poetry slams benefit our students and enhance their educational experiences? Aside from helping to cultivate public speaking skills—which are highly useful in a variety of scholastic, professional, and personal post-secondary-education environments—they also often facilitate the transformation of bashful and perhaps even disinterested students into engaged and enthusiastic scholars, providing a powerful platform for expression and helping to develop students’ confidence and vision.
The poetry slams are quickly becoming a treasured tradition at CHS. Many thanks to all of our organizers and participants!
Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”