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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inside Bancroft Elementary Part 4: Final Poetry Slam! preparations

This fall, Anthony Palmer, a Gettysburg College junior spending the semester studying at American University, is volunteering for DC SCORES by spending each Monday afternoon with the poet-athletes at Bancroft Elementary School as they write poetry and prepare for the season-ending Poetry Slam! and play soccer.

“Using a camera and a notebook to tell their stories, I hope to give you an inside look at the hard work the students, coaches and teachers at Bancroft Elementary are doing on a daily basis to work toward DC SCORES' goals of ‘self-expression, physical fitness, and a sense of community,’” Anthony says.

Each week for the remainder of the season, Anthony will write about his experience in this space. Read his weekly posts for an inside look into the DC SCORES elementary school experience.

See pictures from Anthony's trips to Bancroft on Flickr.


Bancroft Elementary's poetry session last Monday was all business. It was the group's last meeting of the week before Thanksgiving, and there was a lot to practice with only a week and a half until the Poetry Slam!.

The students met in the cafeteria and were divided into two groups which rotated halfway through the session. One group played soccer, while the other worked with Coach Nikki to prepare for their debut on stage.

Coach Nikki handed out copies of the poems that the students will be performing. They sat in a circle and ran through their lines, then the students went outside and lined up on the basketball court.

Using the 3-point arc to arrange the young poets, Nikki focused on stage formation and other performance elements not usually emphasized during the regular class sessions.

"The audience always sees you," Nikki told them, emphasizing the need for students to stay attentive and focused at all times on stage.

The group formed a circle and at Coach Nikki's instruction, they began a cadence of clapping and stomping that served as a metronome for the performer in the center of the circle.

Anna stood in the center, waited until she felt comfortable, and recited her poem as the stomping and clapping continued. Anna, a fourth grader, will be leading her classmates in an original "rap" at the Poetry Slam!

"I will be saying a rap that's referring to my Bancroft team," Anna said. "It's going to be about Bancroft power and how we do things and how we get stuff done."

Anna, who performed at last year's Poetry Slam!, is excited for the upcoming event, and, she said, doesn't get nervous speaking in public.

"I wrote the whole thing myself," she said.

Elder will also be reading at the Poetry Slam!. His original poem is about girls. Coach Nikki said he is making some great progress since he last performed it at Starbucks.

"Elder specifically was so nervous going up the first time," Nikki said of the Starbucks performance. "Once he heard that he didn't get any bad feedback, he was excited and went up a second time, and now he's doing a solo poem for us at the Poetry Slam!.

"I don't think he would have had that confidence if he didn't go to Starbucks first."

When both groups finished their individual sessions, the entire class met in the center of the soccer field for a group rehearsal that replicated how they will perform at the Slam!.

Anna performed her rap again, and Coach Nikki battled some shortened attentions as many students anxiously wanted to play soccer.

"We don't have any games left," she told them. "But we do have a Poetry Slam!. This is our priority."

"I want to win," she Nikki adding, encouraging the students. "You have to focus and have a positive attitude. You're going to be on stage in front of friends and family members."

The Bancroft team will be doing a group performance about fears; Anna will be leading a rap about Bancroft power; and Elder will perform a funny poem he wrote about girls.

I'd love to tell you more, but you'll just have to come to the Columbia Heights Education Campus tomorrow night at 6pm and see the students perform for yourself!

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