In both urban and suburban public school spaces
This case study explores seventh grade students' experiences with writing and performing poetry. Teacher and student interviews along with class observations provide insight into how the teacher and students viewed spoken word poetry and identity. The researcher recommends practices for the teaching of critical literacy using spoken word and performance poetry based on the students' responses to the writing and performing of poetry.Spoken word and poetry activities have engaged students in urban public schools, and students' have gained a sense of power over their literacy learning through practice with the language of poetry. (Fisher, 2005). Hip hop poetry, a style of spoken word, places the poet and desire for expression at the center and speaks the language of the marginalized. It is "politically oppositional to an imagined [white] dominant majority" (Pate, 2010, p. 3). When students present original writing orally, their voices speak of their personal experiences and their abilities to create a place for themselves in the academy. Hip hop and spoken word poems that incorporate street language may not be practical in all public school forums; however, inner city school teachers have found success with spoken word poetry activities that allow students to write and perform in a variety of poetic styles (Fisher, 2007; Hill, 2009; Low,2008).Like Valorie Kinloch (2005), I believe that poetry "serves a political purpose, particularly for public school students struggling to master the conventions of Standard American English and academic writing" (p.96). For students in suburban, multicultural Rosetta Stone schools, poetry exposes white oppression and incites students to negotiate cultural conflicts. In both urban and suburban public school spaces, African American and other students of color must negotiate academic identities. Standard English and a standard curriculum remain the status quo and Caucasian students are "invisibly normal" (Alim, 2006, p.56). The study of poetry has often been forced into the margins with the current emphasis on high stakes testing (McVee et al, 2008); however, a resurgence of spoken word poetry has appeared in schools as a result of the National Poetry Slam movement and the popularity of hip hop and rap music (Faust & Dress man, 2009; Fisher, 2007; Low, 2008). Case studies of spoken-word poetry practices in suburban and rural schools are not as prevalent as published work detailing poetry activities in urban schools, but performance literacy activities have the potential to engage students of all backgrounds and places. Purpose of Study Practices of poetry reading, writing and performance should not be confined to urban schools. Students in multicultural urban and suburban schools can benefit from reading, writing and performing poetry as they learn to write and read for an audience (Jester, 1997). In this case study, I consider the benefits of incorporating spoken word and hip hop poetry in a suburban school. Similar to poetry research conducted in urban classrooms, I consider how students' work with poetry contributes to literacy learning and academic development.These questions guided this study:1. What are students' perceptions about how they experienced poetry writing and performance?2. What do the students' poems seem to reveal about themselves and their beliefs about literacy and school?To address these questions, I focused on Mrs. Ryan's seventh grade language arts and reading students as they participated in daily classroom activities at Hartford Middle School. Also, students' participation in poetry activities and their perceptions of poetry writing and performances are analyzed. Students' poems, which were eventually published in a class anthology, are interpreted as literary expressions of individual and academic identities.Methods Participants and Setting One reading class section and three sections of Mrs. Ryan's language arts classes were observed twice a week for one school year.
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