SlamCraft face-to-face course starts soon

There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people fall in love with poetry. For those located near me in the Tweed region, NSW, here’s your chance to join the most comprehensive poetry course I’ve created yet.

SLAMCRAFT is a unique course in writing and performing powerful poetry. Over 4 weeks, you will create new, authentic poems and gain skills to perform them with confidence. Learn creative strategies to unlock ideas, build your writing skills, and explore your voice in a safe and inclusive setting.
SlamCraft is not just for slam poets; it is for anyone who wants to connect with themselves and others through their words. Developed over 15 years of practice and research, this is the most comprehensive SlamCraft course offered to date.

SlamCraft runs for 4 consecutive Sundays from 2-4pm at the Frances Mills Education Centre in the Tweed Regional Gallery.

Course outline:
Oct 27 – Week 1. Love your materials.
Nov 3 – Week 2. Writing for the ear.
Nov 10 – Week 3. This is my voice.
Nov 17 – Week 4. Taking up space.

Cost: $155 / $135
Beginners are most welcome.
For an enrolment form or more info, contact Sarah:
Ph: 0428 256 531
E: poet@sarahtemporal.com

What people say about SlamCraft:

“This is the first creative writing workshop I have ever attended. I came thinking I’m not a poet; I’m leaving with a poem I’ve written and am proud to perform. Thank you.” – Dee Milenkovic, SlamCraft participant 2018

“I’ve never been so moved by my own poetry. This experience is with much thanks to Sarah for creating and facilitating a workshop which helps people to connect with themselves and others through their spoken words.” – Gabrielle Journey Jones, spoken word artist and author of ‘Spoken Medicine’

“Sarah Temporal’s SlamCraft is a much-needed excavation of the components behind successful spoken word poetry. Sarah uses an in-depth study of successful spoken word artists and the form’s hip hop origins to educate those wishing to hone their writing for the stage.” – Elliot York Cameron, Word Travels Program & Education Officer 2018

Spoken-word poetry in education: Best practice guide

I’ve been interested in using spoken-word poetry in high-schools since I was a student-teacher. There are so many benefits for students. The NSW syllabus has caught up somewhat by offering two ‘performance poets’, Kate Tempest and Luka Lesson, for HSC study to inspire students’ own writing. However, Australia is a long way behind the USA and UK, where youth spoken-word programs in education have been operating on a large scale for over a decade, and making a big impact on student learning outcomes.

I was curious to know what we can do at a school level to bring the benefits of spoken-word into our classrooms. I briefly reviewed the available research on spoken-word poetry in education, youth spoken-word programs, and poet-educators from the USA, UK and Australia.

The following advice appears frequently:

  • Teachers should participate on equal basis with students in writing activities:

“whenever I’ve been in a class where…the teacher has shared what they’ve written… something vulnerable or personal, the respect between teacher and students becomes so equal and solid. Vulnerability is a tool that is sometimes undervalued by teachers.” (Luka Lesson cited in Xerri 2016)

  • Collaborate with professional poets to benefit both students and teachers:

“Writers often address the very same aspects of writing on which teachers may be working, and yet the effects can be radically different… their very living relies on their craft, and this clearly makes some important connection with pupils.” (Owen and Munden)

  • Cultivate a writing community beyond the classroom and extend opportunities to publish and perform into that wider community:

“the objective… is to make young people realize that their voice is important and that it has as great a value as any president’s, prime minister’s or anybody… once they’ve grasped that, you find that even the most nervous children often will get up and perform.” (Chelley McLear cited in Xerri 2017)

  • When students encounter a poem, ask “What do you notice?” rather than “What is it about?”

“the teacher’s role is… to find entry points into poems that echo students’ personal stories.” (Jon Sands cited by Nozica)

  • Have students engage in a regular practice of writing before introducing techniques, and wherever possible, show them the techniques present in their own writing:

“The skills of comprehension and analysis of form and language choice will develop over time, through the process of repeated composition and through exposure to a variety of texts.” (Nozica)

Outdoor Reading-Storyfest Workshop (1).jpg
A teacher shares her poem with students at a writing workshop, Sydney 2018.

To sum up, there seems to be a lot of valuable teaching strategies here; but it might require a bit of a re-think of our usual practice. I know personally how difficult it is as a classroom teacher to invite vulnerability into our practice; when in the same role we are expected to convey authority and firm boundaries. It’s also difficult for many schools to invite professional poets in to work with students, due to tight budgets and schedules. However, I think there’s a shining opportunity to partner up with spoken-word and poetry groups in your community. Live poetry events bring together semi-professional and emerging poets, many of them young and interesting. What better way to  get your students inspired than by bringing them in touch with a real poetry scene?

 

You can read more on teaching spoken-word poetry at my page for teachers. I will also be presenting at the ETA conference soon. Please contact me if you’d like more resources.


References:

Nozica, Narcisa. “Spotlight on poetry.” Metaphor 2 (2017): 24-29.

Xerri, Daniel. “‘Poetry does really educate’: An interview with spoken word poet Luka Lesson.” English in Australia 51.1 (2016): 18-24.

Xerri, Daniel. “Inspiring young people to be creative: Northern Ireland’s poetry in motion for schools.” New Writing 14.1 (2017): 127-137.

A turning point for spoken-word poetry in schools

For the first time in NSW, ‘performance poetry’ is now part of the English syllabus. Two poets have been listed for study in the Higher School Certificate: Kate Tempest from the UK, and Australian Luka Lesson. When I’m not writing and performing, I teach secondary English on the north coast of NSW, and I’ve been watching the developments of spoken-word in education closely in recent times.

Here’s my PMI analysis of the current turning point for spoken-word poetry in schools, at least in NSW Australia:

PLUS:

  • Spoken-word poetry is a form which shows high levels of engagement among young people. With its connection to hip-hop, inclusive demographic and often direct language choices, it appeals to the ‘reality’ and relevance students may feel is missing in other curriculum.
  • Spoken-word uses an entire suite of alternative writing methods and poetic devices, providing opportunities for students’ creative development in new and substantial ways.
  • Having spoken-word poetry on the new HSC syllabus instantly signals its value, not just as engaging texts but as respected literature. This may eventually facilitate greater awareness of this new form among teachers, parents, and the broader community.
  • Spoken-word poetry events, like slams and open mics, have already been shown to increase young people’s engagement with poetry beyond the classroom. In the USA, young poets are credited with initiating the highest percentage of poetry readership in more than 15 years. This is good news if our aim in teaching is to inspire a lifelong love of language and literature.
  • With the digital communication revolution, poetry has become far more accessible and available, and spoken-word poets have been at the forefront of the change. Youtube has become an abundant public library of live poetry, giving teachers instant access to a huge range of texts and playlists to suit their students.
  • While there are many more possibilities that teachers may not yet be aware of, the poets featured on the new syllabus are very well-chosen. I myself would have picked those two names, after 15 years immersed in spoken-word. Kate Tempest’s hypnotic vision re-animates the art of oral storytelling, with an uncompromisingly youthful twenty-first-century perspective. Luka Lesson has established a successful career on the back of many years teaching and mentoring young people to write, and as such his genuine understanding of the school-age audience is unparalleled.

MINUS:

  • Although you could argue that oral poetry has been around for a long time, spoken-word poetry is still fairly new. Teachers may not have had the chance to study it themselves at tertiary level and certainly not in their own schooling. In order to teach it effectively, they will need access to strong resources, ideally covering the history of spoken-word, its cultural impact, various forms, and literary devices.
  • Because spoken-word has always embraced those aspects of performance that don’t easily translate to the page, scholars and teachers have previously found it difficult to study. There is a very limited scholarly discourse around this form, compounded by entrenched views of what ‘proper poetry’ should be. I started investigating the technical devices used in spoken-word poetry for my Honours thesis in 2005; I was amazed that academics hadn’t covered it yet. More than ten years down the track, there’s still a fairly large gap in the literature.
  • There’s always potential for a great move in curriculum to backfire; in this case, my inner pessimist worries that a new generation of young people might grow up hating spoken-word poetry because they ‘had to do it in school’. Thankfully, teachers tend to be tenacious, passionate and ever-curious bunch, so that probably won’t come to pass.

INTERESTING:

  • While many poets have grown weary of the ‘page vs. stage’ debate, in the classroom this could spark some real insight for students. Spoken-word is not in competition with ‘page’ poetry, but some may find one or the other more appealing for interesting reasons.
  • Spoken-word gives us lots of opportunities to teach language as play. Just look at the concept of rhyme – younger children do it spontaneously, and hip-hop artists use it as elaborate improvisation through freestyling. Rhyme can open up new ways into writing for those students who dread putting pen to paper.
  • Performed poetry requires more than just performers. Staging a poetry event also allows students to learn to be active audience members, judges, timekeepers, organisers, and team members. Better yet, let them take ownership and direct the event they want.
  • Poets who work with schools have often commented that in order to really inspire students’ writing, teachers also need to be willing to take part and make themselves vulnerable as beginner writers. Candy Royalle and Luka Lesson in their roles with Red Room Poetry both felt that students gained more respect for teachers who took this risk.
  • The new syllabus includes performance poetry in a new module called ‘Craft of Writing’. Students study exemplary short pieces of writing and then develop their own craft by imitating, experimenting, editing and polishing. How will examiners assess skills a student has learnt through spoken word, such as flow, dynamics and vocal delivery, in a written exam?

It’s certainly an interesting time for education as well as for spoken-word. You can hear more by signing up for updates from this blog, or following me on Facebook.

For teachers, you can also hear me present on this topic at the ETA Annual Conference. Are you planning to use performance poetry with your classes? Please share your thoughts below or contact me – I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

 

*Featured image source Youtube: Outloud Australia channel