To help students grapple with complex issues of identity, membership, and belonging, consider teaching one or both of the following spoken word poems.
- Facing History student Jonathan Lykes’ award-winning spoken word poem, “Perception” (04:08), explores how prejudice influences our decisions about helping others.
- Amina Iro and Hannah Halpern confront Muslim and Jewish stereotypes in their spoken word poem (03:19) at the 2013 Brave New Voices quarter finals.
After students listen to each of these poems, have them complete a rapid-fire writing response and then share a word or short phrase from their response in a wraparound.
If you would like your students to write their own spoken word poems, you might ask them to write a journal entry that responds to a question or line in one of the poems. For example, use the following prompt to have students explore the questions that Lykes asks in the opening lines of “Perception”:
“How do they see me? How do I see them?”
Write about a time when you felt like how you were perceived was different from how you perceive yourself.
Students can then use their journal entries as a starting place for their poems. You might include mini-lessons about literary devices such as imagery, figurative language, alliteration, consonance, dissonance, assonance, and repetition. After students have written, workshopped, and revised their poems, celebrate with an “author’s chair,” where students share their poems with the class or publish them in a class book.