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Lesson Plans

Spoken Word/Performance Literacies in the Composition Classroom

My initial interest in using and seeking approval for a future classroom case study on spoken word poetry in my composition classroom began at Michigan State University. It was at MSU that I sensed an intuitive connection between identity (performance), retention (particularly among first generation, low-income college students), and academic resilience. Of course such research draws from David Kirkland’s work in analyzing language, identity and power at New York University. In my including spoken word poetry into my composition classroom I’m concerned with how creative genres in a composition classroom can promote the transfer of writing skill sets afforded to the academy and beyond. In the course of a semester students are asked to compose a diverse selection of writing for various audiences and rhetorical situations. However, our focus as writers, composers and performers include a collective body of intensive composing for the purpose of developing critical thinking skills, analysis, creating and responding to arguments, understanding the importance of inquiry, and examining disciplinary literacies. When composing and performing spoken word poetry alongside digital compositions, and more traditional academic writing seemingly students began to compare the process and rhetorical decision making possibilities available, given the genre and the apparatus by which communication is transmitted. Students receive this assignment sheet (click to enlarge):

We view and critically discuss a wide array of spoken word performances in Detroit, and in various other settings (via the web). I present students with a historical outline of the genre’s history and its’ origins, boundaries and borders. To support metacognition, their process writing activity involves composing a letter to their favorite spoken word artist (see instructions for the letter below).


Their performance is evaluated using the following rubric:

In my research I’m interested in the following questions:

1. How does performance genres like spoken word poetry prepare students for academic writing in college?
2. How might the identified skill sets they’ve learned when composing and performing spoken word poetry be used to actively engage other academic genres?
3. Over the course of one semester, when composing and performing spoken word poetry alongside digital, and more traditional academic writing) can we clearly see evidence of transferable writing and communication skill sets among various writing situations?

LaToya Faulk received her MA in Rhetoric and Writing Michigan State University in 2009. She joined the department as a lecturer in 2011 and is currently teaching ENG 1020.

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