Following the Brightwood Panthers on their Poetry Slam Journey

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following the Brightwood Panthers and going to their poetry practice sessions. With the help of their poetry coaches, Mrs. Andrews, and Ms. Serrano, the kids have been able to grow and develop their ideas into great poems and performances for the annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam.

It was a very rainy afternoon when I first went to visit the Panthers. Kids rambunctiously gathered at the storytelling area as Mrs. Andrews passed out their journals and snacks. Everyone seemed eager and excited to start the session.

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Mrs. Andrews starts each session with a quick writing exercise. During my first visit, the poets were asked if they were able to write a letter to anyone –living or dead – who would it be and what would they want to say.

Many kids said they would write to their best friend or mother, but one student in particular stood out to me. His name was Angel and he said that he would like to write to his grandfather and tell him how much he loved him. He went on to explain that he hasn’t been able to see his grandfather in a very long time, and how he misses him a lot.

After the quick exercise, Mrs. Andrews usually gives the kids a break from writing and has them do a team-building exercise. These exercises not only allow the kids to get some energy out, but also do a really good job making the students feel comfortable with each other.

Next, we talked about the ways the kids could make their letters into poems. They discussed different things they had learned earlier in the year like similes and metaphors. Students also talked about how they could format the letter into lines and stanzas.

To get ready for the Slam, DC SCORES has poetry specialists visit teams to help them get ready for their big night. During one of their practices, specialist Marquell Washington, helped the kids with the finishing touches of their group poems. Marquell helped the kids figure out things like where to stand and how to project. He even suggested that they do parts of the poem in Spanish, which the kids really liked and many even found themselves more comfortable and confident speaking their parts in Spanish.

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Overall, seeing these kids develop their poems and ideas has been an amazing experience, and I am very excited to see how the kids perform at the Westside Poetry Slam next Wednesday, November 20 at Roosevelt High School.

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