Amanda Gorman’s poetry shows why the spoken word has its place at school | Notice
Editor’s note: Shortly after Amanda Gorman recited one of her poems during President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, three of her upcoming books soared to three of the top four places on Amazon. She was also selected for recite an original poem for Super Bowl LV. Here, three poetry scholars explain why the writings of 22-year-old Gorman – who became the country’s National Youth Laureate at 17 – and her rise to fame represent a great opportunity for educators to use poetry. spoken like living poetry. way to engage students.
Wendy R. Williams, Assistant Professor of English at Arizona State University
During my research studying a diverse group of spoken word creation poets in ArizonaI learned that teens improved their writing skills, academic performance, self-confidence, and social skills by writing and performing oral poetry. Poets have used this medium to heal, advocate for change, and imagine new futures.
I noticed that these courageous young writers often delivered breathtaking lines, such as, “If I sit in a dark room long enough, will I develop like a movie?” They used poetry to respond to those who wronged them. And they used this medium to denounce injustice. As a teenage poet in the study wrote, “We live in a first world country, but inner city children are still hungry.”
Although oral poetry can benefit adolescents in many ways, education from Kindergarten to Grade 12 has been relatively slow to kiss this medium. It is unfortunate, because spoken poetry and others creative forms of writing such as songs, short films, animated works and comics can help young people acquire the important skills needed to make college-level writing.
Spoken poetry has enormous potential in education from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Teachers can use this medium to honor student languages and cultures, encourage authentic writing, and build community. Spoken poetry also aligns with many of the writing, speaking, and listening goals outlined in the Common basic condition standards, a set of learning goals for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. For example, writing and performing oral poetry fits the purpose of “writing… for a range of tasks, purposes and audiences”.
Introducing oral poetry into the classroom doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Teachers could start by showing short videos of works by Amanda Gorman, Jamaica Osorio, Prince ea and other ethnically diverse spoken word poets. After listening to and discussing some of these poems, students could write about their own concerns and hopes for the future. They might also have the option of playing in a little poetry slam.
In a slam, poets perform with attention to volume, rhythm and gestures while audience members respond with clichés and supporting commentary. Many adolescents enjoy performing their poetry, in competitions such as Stronger than a bomb and Brave New Voices to prove.
Young people have important ideas to express. They need to be taken seriously as writers and given the support, tools and platforms necessary to make their voices heard.
Kathleen M. Alley, Associate Professor of Literacy at Mississippi State University
When I heard Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration, I immediately decided to throw my plans for the week out the window. I hope teachers across the country will also be willing to put aside their regular lesson plans in order to take the opportunity to use Gorman’s poetry to engage with students who are not much younger.
I am a teacher-trainer, which means that I help prepare the teachers of the future. My students are on track to become elementary and middle school teachers in about a year.
The first thing I did with my students was simply to savor Gorman’s words. I wanted my students to think about what these words mean to each of us personally, and use them as a medium for conversation about teaching to write.
His poem is an incredible example of oral poetry – a form of poetry rooted in oral traditions and performance. The spoken word encompasses elements of rap, hip-hop, storytelling, drama, and more. It is characterized by rhyme, repetition, pun and improvisation. He often touches issues of social justice, politics, race and community. It promises to help young people connect with ideas and provide a way to deepen understanding and develop understanding and empathy, which can then be applied to real world situations. One of the most powerful things poetry can do is refocus, if not transform, people’s perspectives.
In my classroom, after sharing a video of Gorman reciting his poem at the inauguration, I asked my students to think about how they would discuss the poem with the elementary and secondary students. How would they “teach” this poem?
We discussed how we could help students make connections between this point in history, the poet’s message, and their own lives. We talked about how elementary and middle school students could use Gorman’s poem as inspiration to write their own poems about place and time.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Associate Professor of English Literatures at Cornell University
Jonathan Kozol in “Savage inequalities: children in American schoolsRecounts how, as a newly trained teacher working at a poor downtown, mostly black school in the 1960s, he taught Langston Hughes ‘poem’ Harlem ‘and how one of the children’ started to cry “when she first heard the line,”What happens to a delayed dream? “
Does it dry
like a raisin in the sun?
He writes: “The next day I was fired because Hughes was considered ‘arsonist’.” I often come back to that moment when I think about poetry in a classroom and the power of words. What did the young girl hear in the poem that moved her to tears?
As educators, we sometimes kill poetry by discovering metaphors, symbols, and line breaks. But at best, poetry in a classroom gives us a way to reflect and be in the world at the same time. It gives the intellectual an emotional backbone.
If a country were a classroom, even when a poem may not heal it, it can suture it. It can be a balm, waiting to heal, if we can just listen. A good poem understands that this won’t happen today, he said – listen! And he regrets his need, that his hunger be both promise and regret. How does a poem hope, dream, and speak to a country built on the original sin of slavery?
Kathleen M. Alley, Associate Professor of Literacy, Mississippi State University; Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Associate Professor of English Literatures, Cornell University, and Wendy R. Williams, Assistant Professor of English, Arizona State University