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A Poetry Slam

R U ready for a Poetry Slam?

April is National Poetry Month, and poetry is experiencing renewed interest and excitement, due to one, very special person.

Amada Gorman’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, awed and inspired all who saw it. America’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate brought performance art to what is usually a sedate recitation.  The poem itself is a mixture of the imagery of unity and hope, using metaphors, rhythm, and rhyme. It entails an undercurrent of music, especially rap. She credits her third-grade teacher, Shelley Fredman, with introducing the power of metaphors to her. In an interview in the LA Times*, Fredman observed “If we do it right, they become the teachers.”

What makes Gorman especially powerful is her performance art. Adding even more surprise is the discovery that she has a speech impediment (certain sounds, especially r’s). She told CBS that she loved practicing the lyrics to “Aaron, Burr, Sir” from Hamilton to help to overcome her problem.

One of my first Blog Posts extolled the virtues of reading and singing holiday songs. Songs and poetry usually have a natural rhythm that improves fluency, and they often include rhyme. They help immensely with flow, and even accuracy. Fluent, accurate readers can concentrate on meaning which, obviously, is the whole point of reading.

This and every April, consider having a Poetry Slam—but do it with no competition, no memorization!

Here’s how:

  • Prepare 5-6 school days ahead of time.
  • Select several poetry books that you are sure your students can read fairly easily.
  • Before class, during lunch, after work is completed, and after school, allow several students to browse through the poetry books, selecting one, short poem to read.
  • Bookmark each child’s poem, and make a copy for practice at home. Memorization is NOT necessary. (If students have tablet access, this part is easier, but a copy of the poem is necessary for efficient timing of the Poetry Slam.)
  • On a day in April, celebrate National Poetry Month by setting aside enough time for each student to read the poem that has been practiced several times. An efficient Poetry Slam usually lasts one hour or less.
  • All students receive applause after each poem is read.
  • Divide the slam over several days if time constraints are necessary.
  • Video each student for extra fun. (You can even send copies to parents.)
  • Enjoy the smiles!


For even more fun, we sometimes “painted poetry.” Our one-minute iMovie is available here

Painting Poetry


The artwork is from where many more ideas for National Poetry Month can be found.

*LA Times, 1/25/21


© Reading Spotlight 2021

Here are some other interesting posts about education from my friends at TBOTEMC:

Teacher Talk
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