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Friday, November 27, 2015

Perspectives from Powell, Part V: Countdown to the Slam!

The Powell Panthers will once again take the stage at Columbia Heights Education Campus on Dec. 2. 
This fall, Writing Coordinator Mira Smith is coaching writing at Powell Elementary School in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, DC. The Powell Panthers love soccer, but are also learning how to express their feelings about the beautiful game -- and much more -- through the poetry aspect of DC SCORES. Follow along as Mira takes us on a journey, through her words and those of her poet-athletes, leading up to the Poetry Slam! December 2.


Written by Mira Smith
Writing Coordinator

The intensity, excitement and nerves are building for the Powell Power Panthers and in just one week we will add our final touches for the Poetry Slam!.

As their coach, I am unbelievably proud of the team and the amount of progress they have made individually and as a whole. I can only imagine how the poet-athletes feel given the fact that I seem to develop a stomach ache every time I realize just how little time there is before the Slam!.

These weeks, we focus on editing poems, assigning lines, and creating basic group choreography. Our first group poem is a chance for students to share fun and important facts about themselves with the audience. Together, we come up with the title “Now You Know Us” along with a clapping call-and-response rhythm.

During our first session of the week, we give any student who is interested in performing his or her individual poem at the Slam! an opportunity to recite it for the rest of the team. Coach Matt gives the group some quick pointers on stance, eye contact and emotion before their mini-performance.

Franklin recites a poem titled “They Tease Me” about standing up to bullies on the soccer field. Katie, recognizing her connection to her heritage, recites a poem in Spanish titled “Hermanos.” She promises to translate it to English for me soon! In America’s poem titled “Lone Wolf,” she compares her own character traits to those of a wolf. Finally, Rosio’s “Bravery” is a rap about her experiences reading poetry.

The students vote for their favorite piece and I am excited to announce that Rosio will be performing “Bravery” on stage Dec. 2 at Columbia Heights Education Campus.

For the remainder of the sessions, we tirelessly practice the group poems. At this point, about half of the poet-athletes have their lines fully memorized and some poets even create hand motions to go along.

In hopes of encouraging the team to memorize the poems, for Thanksgiving break I task each individual poet athlete to recite their lines to as many people as possible and teach the choruses to at least two people. Some team members even suggest meeting up over break to practice their lines.

While we are not yet performance ready, the Slam! is quickly approaching and we cannot wait to show everyone all of our hard work!


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