Poetry Slam showcases fifth graders’ voices

Fifth graders Amelia Floros and Maggie Hannigan from Anne Martinez’s classroom tag team a poem at the school’s annual Poetry Slam, Feb. 27. Photo by Matt Mackinder

BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer

The fifth-grade poets came out in full force at Bailey Lake Elementary School for the annual Poetry Slam in Carol Barber’s and Anne Martinez’s classrooms, Feb. 27.
In each room, students took turns reciting original poems they created.
Some rhymed, some didn’t. Some were long, some were short. Some were recited solo, others were recited with multiple students.
Overall, the event was well-attended by family members, packing the classrooms close to capacity.
According to Barber and Martinez, the Poetry Slam started at Pine Knob Elementary, and explained “as teachers move, so do ideas.”
“It began as a desire to give all students a voice,” Barber said. “Having the slam allows students to write for an audience. This is how we celebrate their work.”
The kids were intrigued and involved during the Poetry Slam, but it wasn’t always that way.

Fifth grader Eliott Hoyle presents his poem. Photo by Matt Mackinder

“When students learned they were going to write poetry, many students were not excited,” Martinez said. “They had many preconceived notions about what poetry is and can be. Throughout the course of the unit, students soon realized poetry was a lot more fun than they originally thought. As part of our Poetry Slam, many students shared what they used to think about poetry and what they now think. This is a common thinking routine we do in class for students to reflect on how far they’ve come.”
A couple students elaborated on their teachers’ assessment.
“I used to think poetry was like nursery rhymes and it had to rhyme,” said Blake Caballa from Barber’s class. “Now, I think poetry can be about anything and has no limit.”
“I used to think poetry was a bunch of short lines on a page,” added Kate Hansen from Martinez’s room. “Now, I think poetry is about something meaningful and you can’t just throw random words on a page. Each word means something.”
In a society where video games and social media can be a priority for children, even fifth graders, Barber and Martinez said poetry can be another way for kids to express themselves.
“Kids have a lot to say,” Barber said. “Their world is full of experiences and emotions that are new and can be complicated. Poetry gives them a way to express their thoughts and feelings about whatever they want. As educators, it is important to give students opportunities to express themselves in a healthy and appropriate way. What we like most about poetry is that no matter the level of the writer, all students find success.”
“Students who often struggle with writing find they are excellent poets,” Martinez said. “By the time our Poetry Slam arrives, they are so excited. That is what makes our Poetry Slam so special.”