- Poetry Slam - 9th grade English lesson Illustration

Poetry Slam
Mr Donn's Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan for English/Language Arts
6th-10th grades
Time Frame: 2-3 days (90 minute class periods)
Created by Mr. Donn; USA
Reported by Mrs. Donn, USA

Getting Started: Mr. Donn challenged the Freshman English department to a student poetry slam by sending the following email to all LA/SS Freshman Teachers, Re: Slam

From: Don Donn
To: All Freshman English Teachers
Re: Slam

To all you teachers
of language arts
I want to know
If you've got the smarts

To show our students
how a slam goes
We can show we have
our own good flows

I challenge you all
one at a time
to show the world
your very best rhyme

Head to head
we will use no prose
and demonstrate how
a real slam goes.

In response to this challenge, only one teacher, Mr. Alvarez, agreed to demonstrate a slam for the students with Mr. Donn as his lone opponent. (It should be noted that Mr. Alvarez, a teacher at Lakes, is a renowned poet.) Here is Mr. Alvarez' acceptance email.

From: Michael Alvarez
To: Donald Donn
Re: Slam

My students, highly verbose
And I
repealing all sense
caution off to leeward
rise gloriously
to this vivid fray

It is the linguistic
lightly lexicogical
That will dominate the state
when rm. 235 throws
rage, skill
mad, rhyming to free-rhyme

Audience unexpecting
unsuspecting outrageous
word schemes
designer phrase screams

So original

What, the Donn clan win
Thin dreams
whisked away to starboard
pleas accompanied by
weakness in

the KNEES!

Please, we accept this challenge

The Alvarez poets.

Demonstration: The Demonstration was performed in the hall and was attended by the entire Freshman class. Many bows were taken in response to the thunderous applause. (Mike Alvarez, as expected, was by far the best and won easily over our own Mr. Donn in spite of the bias votes Mr. Donn received from many of his loyal students.)

School Newspaper Inclusion:

(In retaliation, this is the write up suggested by Mr. Donn for inclusion in the school paper.
Can you spot the wording trick? Ah - the power of words!)

On Tuesday 13 May at Lakes High School, English teachers participated in a demonstration poetry slam. The competitors included our own Freshman English teachers Mr. Donn and Mr. Alvarez. Competition was fierce with some of the best poets at Lakes participating. We can report some very good news. Our own Mr. Donn finished second in the competition! Mr. Alvarez, unfortunately, could not match this performance and finished next to last.

(BIG Clue: Remember - there were only 2 competitors - Mr. Donn and Mr. Alvarez.
Ask your students: How could Mr. Alvarez both win and finish next to last?)

Student Preparation: Now, it was the students turn. All students had to write a poem, but they did not have to read that poem aloud or have to compete in any way. However, many students did decide to give it a shot. (Mr. Donn's whopping defeat gave his students great comfort and encouragement.) Students were allowed to team up if they wished. They could choose to use simple props. Music, however, was not allowed.

The SLAM: Freshman Announcement

Today, during all periods, we will be holding the Freshman English Poetry Slam. It will take place in the 100 commons during the middle part of each period. Come see our poets in action!

The SLAM: Action Here's how it worked: (Set up somewhat like a chess tournament.)

Up in pairs, each person read their poem. Judges voted on who was best of 2. (Judges can be a mix of teachers and students, only students, or only teachers. Make sure you have an odd number of judges so majority rules.) The winners advance.

Each Freshman class all day donated some class time to the slam. When time was up, all participants and audience returned to their current class. All slam participants received a ribbon that said Honorable Mention. In addition, three ribbons were awarded that said First, Second, and Third Place Winner.

In a surprising twist, during the actual Slam, students cheered for participants from their own class rather than choosing to support good friends in other classrooms. By referring to the "Donn clan" and the "Alvarez poets", we believe Mike (Mr. Alvarez) set the stage for classroom loyalty in his challenge response email, a copy of which went to all Freshman students. Whatever the reason, it was good to see and added to the fun.


That afternoon after school, with a quick cut and paste, Mr. Donn made booklets that included all poems performed in the First Annual Poetry Slam 2003. Each poem was individually marked Honorable Mention except for the three top winners who received First, Second or Third Place. Poems were arranged in no particular order; there was no table of contents - the booklet was simply created, and great appreciated. A copy of this booklet was given to each participant on the following day. As well, all participants were verbally honored as a group in each class all day long.

Try a Poetry Slam at your school: It's great fun. There are many uses for a poetry slam. For example, a slam can act as the concluding activity to a unit on poetry, or it can be run prior to the study of a particular poet, such as Langston Hughes/Harlem Renaissance. Once students try to write their own poem for competition, they have more respect for the published poetry of others. It's helpful to preface a slam with a teacher demonstration. A demonstration will set the stage and the mood, and will increase student interest and participation.