KidPoWriMo Day 6 ~ Spoken Word Saturday

It’s Saturday and it’s still the weekend. Let’s have some more fun!

Before the internet, we had television. Before that, there was radio. Before that, the only way you could see a live show was to go sit in an auditorium with performers on stage.

Long ago, poetry was communicated on paper. People would buy or borrow books, then recite the poetry they contained for family and friends. Unless a poet happened to be visiting a town or city nearby, the only way to hear his (or her) poems was for someone else to read them.

Today, a poet can read an original poem in front of a video camera and someone halfway around the world can see it within seconds after it is uploaded. Yesterday’s Day 5 post “Writing Backwards” was seen by someone in South Africa who “liked” it. He and I chatted back-and-forth late into the night (Washington DC time); in his time zone, I am pretty sure it was closer to really early in the morning.

Poetic phrase of the day:slam poetry” (click here to read the definition on

Because I have competed in and hosted poetry slams, I have had to explain to many people what a slam is. You might think of slam as what somebody does to a door when they are angry. Putting a word that sounds so violent next to a quiet, gentle word like poetry can be confusing to those who have never heard those two words together before.

In my own words: a slam is a poetry show where poets compete against one another by performing their spoken-words.

You can learn a lot by watching other people perform their spoken-words, so, watch this video before reading the prompt below. It features kids who are learning to write spoken-word. Only parts of each poem are presented in this video.

While watching, what stood out to you? Did you notice that many of the poets were not reading from a piece of paper? That’s because they practice their poems so they can recite them from memory. Most of the poets were speaking quickly and projecting their voices. You may remember that one girl talked about how the poets used rhyme in the video she watched.

PROMPT: Write a spoken word poem that takes between one to two minutes to read. A poem that fills up one typed page will take about a minute to read. If you practice it and read it quickly, the time will be shorter. Pick a topic that is important to you and write as if your words have to make it important to everyone else.  Use the tools from days 1 through 5. When you are finished writing, time yourself reading your poem and practice it until you can remember it.

Spoken-word poetry is one of the most entertaining kinds of poetry. It is also very flexible in the choice of styles you can use to make your poem. People add all sorts of extras, like props, sound effects, costumes when they present their poem to an audience to make it more entertaining. These are things that people cannot get when reading the same poem from a book. Do your best to write your best poem before adding special, extra things. A good poem will be appreciated, even if all you do is read it.

Free-style is one way of presenting poetry where a poet rhymes in the moment off the top of his head. There is no paper and the poem did not exist before the poet stood before an audience. I am amazed when people do this. Free-style doesn’t mean that the poet never writes anything on paper, in fact, they probably write so much that the words are ready to come out whenever and however the poet wants. When I see someone perform free-style, I think it is awesome. Still, I feel sad if the performance is not written down or recorded anywhere so it can be repeated for others to see, hear or read. So, I encourage you to write everything on paper if you want to keep it.

FOR PARENTS WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN: Have a poetry night in your living room. Have your child practice in advance to remember a favorite poem or portion of a picture book by heart. If they have written or dictated an original poem to you, include it in your event. Ask them what kinds of gestures they can use while performing. After each performance, snap your fingers instead of clapping your hands. Select some spoken word videos from YouTube you deem appropriate for your family to watch together after your living room slam.