Speak the Word:Slam Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool in the World Language Classroom

Speak the Word:Slam Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool in the World Language Classroom

Ines Corujo-Martin


SPA 3302 Survey of Modern Spanish Literature

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

Slam poetry is a type of spoken-word poetry that combines poetry and performance in front of an audience. This creative writing activity will be implemented in the course SPA 3302, which explores key themes of Spanish literature and culture from the 19th century to contemporary times through reading, analysis, and interpretation of dramatic plays, short stories, poetry, essays, and novels. Students are introduced to literary terms, literary genres, techniques of literary analysis and language construction (like simile, alliteration, personification, metaphor, etc.), as well as to the work of a wide range of authors. This course is offered every spring semester and is a designated Writing Intensive course.
The purpose of implementing a slam poetry activity is for students to read, enjoy, and interact with poetry in a meaningful and personal way, approaching the poetic genre as a living spectacle that allows us to link writing and performance. Even though this course includes essays, weekly class discussion in online forums, formal presentations, and reading assignments, there is a lack of systemic creative, engaging activities. This activity aims to help students connect the course content with their personal interests and translate what they learn in class to create their own texts based on the readings and materials.
Throughout the activity, students are expected to:
• Read, analyze, and interpret a selection of poems
• Write their own poem (1 draft + 1 final version)
• Peer-review poems written by classmates in small groups
• Attend a virtual slam poetry performance online
• Perform their own poem in class during a conclusive slam poetry session

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

With this activity I aim to achieve the learning goals described below:
• Develop students’ reading, writing, and oral communication skills in Spanish, while they put into practice all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and increasing confidence in using Spanish as a tool of communication
• Exercise literary analysis and poetic techniques, in addition to exploring the relationship between text and performance
• Show new approaches to reading and writing, while promoting the use of Spanish in a creative way
• Offer an instrument of personal expression to think critically, while connecting course materials with own interests and life experiences
• Create bonds with peers in an online environment and develop a sense of community in the classroom
• Embark on a personal journey through another language and become active agents of their language acquisition

The proposed activity integrates the following General Education SLOs:
Oral Communication:
• Delivery techniques (posture, gesture, eye contact, and vocal expressiveness) make the performance compelling, and the speaker appears polished and confident
• Message is compelling and shows a high degree of originality and ownership. Uniquely conveys ideas and emotions with words and phrases
Written Communication:
• Poetic genre. Correctly incorporates and utilizes the stylistic features and format of the poetic genre (literary devices, rhyme, structure, mood, tone, etc.)
• Use of Spanish language. Very few errors in sentence structure and mechanics; exhibits good to excellent command of Spanish and professional terminology; sentences are complex, and vocabulary is sophisticated; skillfully communicates meaning to readers with clarity and fluency
• Writing Process. Effectively works on the different stages of the poem to achieve the best final version of it, incorporating changes from peer review activities
• Analysis/Interpretation. Correctly identifies and evaluates ideas or arguments in a poem. Able to compare or contrast information competently between different sources. Uses information from the poem to make sophisticated interpretations, while making connections to other situations

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

This activity is implemented during the second module of the course, which is divided into four modules. The second module centers around the study and analysis of poetry, and it is developed over the course of 4 weeks.
The activity timing is structured as follows:
– Week 1: Presentation of the assignment, guidelines, and evaluation rubric. Preliminary short, guided activities to read, analyze, and interpret poems. Brainstorming of topics and samples of poems from previous courses
– Week 2: Watch a slam poetry session online (15 min) and write a short reflection of 250-300 words on the OpenLab site. Write and submit the first draft by the end of Week 2
– Week 3: After submitting the first draft students receive individualized feedback from the professor a few days later on how to improve the content and use of Spanish (grammar, vocabulary, syntax). Through a peer-review session in small groups of three during class students evaluate each other’s poem using a peer review guide. In-class time is also devoted to practice the performance in small groups in class and give feedback to each other
– Week 4: Final version of the poem. Slam poetry performance session during class
In total, this activity will use 4 hours in class; and it is expected that students work 4-5 hours outside of class.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

No previous preparation is needed for this activity. SPA 3302 is a course fully conducted in Spanish and the majority of students are native or near-native Spanish speakers, which facilitates writing, reading, and performing creative texts. The instructions of the activity are provided on the OpenLab site and explained in detail during class.
Even though this is a low-stakes activity, the final version of the poem is part of a semester high-stake final project – a writing ePortfolio created through the OpenLab that students develop throughout the semester. The ePortfolio compiles all the formal and creative writing assignments of the semester with a final reflection on the project experience, which accounts for 40% of the final grade. As a high-impact practice derived from American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), implementing an ePortfolio within the course seeks to enhance students’ learning experience, promoting active learning. Through this assignment students have the opportunity to document their learning over an extended period of time and reflect on their work. Moreover, the activity proposed connects to other high-impact practices due to its focus on collaborative learning through peer-editing, discussion groups and exchange of ideas, in addition to diversity/global learning. Since this course is fully conducted in Spanish, students are already exploring another culture, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own. As a designated Writing Intensive course, SPA 3302 also focuses on the process of writing through several formal and informal assignments to help students develop skills in academic and non-academic writing.

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

For this activity, I designed a rubric adapted from different AAC&U VALUE rubrics that incorporates a balanced assessment of oral communication, written communication, and reading learning outcomes. See the link to the rubric that I developed below. Interested users of this rubric are welcome to make adaptations and additions to tailor it to their specific pedagogical needs and class context. This course is not part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative.

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

I couldn't implement this activity this semester, and instead of it, students had an in-class poetry workshop in which they analyzed poems and wrote one creative poem. Due to the extensive course content and other assignments, I decided to simplify the slam poetry activity and design shorter, scaffolded exercises over multiple class sessions since students needed to become familiar with reading and analyzing poems in Spanish and identifying poetic techniques (e.g., rhyme scheme, poetic devices, etc.). However, I am looking forward to implementing it this coming Fall 2022 as I believe that it will help students improve their written, reading, and oral skills, while at the same time enjoying playing and creating new meanings through words.

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These can be links to pages or posts on the OpenLab.

Rubric: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12BExs6fFxYyeLicrqDsUCD3FE_B2Jago/view?usp=sharing

Please share a helpful link to a pages or post on the OpenLab

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