Slam Poetry Arguments

Course Name: 
WRD 111
Assignment Type: 
Classroom Activity
Assignment Length: 
One Class Period
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
Preparation Guidance and Instructor Advice: 

For homework, I had the students watch three slam poetry videos (Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Woman,” Isaac Bond’s “Body Imagination,” and Sonya Renee’s “The Body is Not An Apology”). For their blog, I had them chose a video and write a 250 word “translation” of the argument of the poem. In class, I divide the students into three groups and assign each group one of the videos. As a group, they explore the following questions:

1) What is the argument of their assigned video?

2) Why is their video the best? (they are to consider content, delivery, etc.)

3) What are the flaws with the other two videos?

After taking a few minutes to discuss these questions and take notes, four different group members stands up and gives a brief speech in answer to the different questions (argument, why their video is best, flaws with first other video, flaws with second other video). Once each group has given their speeches, each group gets together again and votes on the group that has made the most convincing claim for their video (note: make sure that they vote not for the best video, but for the group that was the most persuasive in their argument for their video). Then a fifth student from each group stands up and tells their vote and reasoning.

I find that this exercise is helpful for the following reasons:

1) Working with this different genre increases class excitement about materials, and helps them think about complex arguments in a fun way.

2) While their students will not be working in the genre of slam poetry for their speeches in class, there is some overlap between what will work well in their speeches and the things that the poets do to engage their audiences.

3) I do this assignment before their first major speeches, so it gives the students the opportunity to speak in front of their classmates in a low-stakes activity.

(I also allow them the opportunity to write their own pieces and translations for extra credit).

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