THE CLASSIC SLAM
On April 28th, 2011 Get Lit-Words Ignite will be hosting Los Angeles’ first CLASSIC SLAM. This citywide teen poetry slam is the first of its kind because teens will be slamming classic poetry (Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Lorca, Walt Whitman, Langson Hughes, Sylvia Plath, etc…) along with their own original poetry.
IN ADDITION… it involves teens from 18 different regions of Los Angeles County – including Compton, Watts, Santa Monica, San Gabriel Valley, San Rafael Valley, Hollywood, S Los Angeles, Inglewood and more…
Teens will compete for scholarships and bragging rights. But more than this … the CLASSIC SLAM will ignite and unite the teens of Los Angeles. They will come together to share stories and to be inspired by the classics, both new and old, and even more important, each other.
At Get Lit…
“A classic isn’t a classic because it’s old… a classic is a classic because it’s great.”
The nation's second-largest school system is facing an estimated $408-million shortfall.
They need to cut money from somewhere…and that somewhere is often, the arts.
After all, they are “extra.” Aren’t they? What’s really important are the 3 R’s… reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Interestingly, the Greek’s model was the 3 A’s…
Academics, Athletics, Arts.
Seems more logical doesn’t it? We all know that different students are motivated to learn by different things. By cutting core Arts programs, we lose the ability to engage thousands of students in the love of learning.
And here is where we are...
But there is a solution!
Spoken word poetry has proved a very effective way to inspire teens to write and engage in the learning process. Get Lit adds the memorization of classic poetry to broaden the scope.
An evaluation by Professor James Catterall and his UCLA team calls it “immensely effective” and Producer Leo Eaton of the soon to air PBS special, “Arts in the Mind,” says, “Get Lit is different (from many arts programs), demanding discipline, hard work, and commitment. You hold their feet to the fire and expect great things, and we see in the program how your kids rise to meet the challenge. ”
So there we have it… PROBLEM … SOLUTION.
But with budget cuts – how do we connect the two?
“THESE TOO ARE YOUR CHILDREN THIS TOO IS YOUR CHILD...”
- LUCILLE CLIFTON
If a child is hungry, you feed it. And the children of Los Angeles are hungry for knowledge, opportunity, inspiration and A CHANCE. So we rallied 18 teachers from high schools/regions throughout Los Angeles County including Watts, Compton, Hollywood, South LA, Alhambra, San Gabriel Valley, Santa Monica, Pasadena, etc… and provided training in Get Lit’s curriculum. With a $20,000 grant we received from the Angell Foundation, we are paying these teachers to teach our curriculum to their students over a 12 week period, impacting over 2,500 teens. Many of these teens come from arts deprived schools whose students were hit particularly hard by budget cuts. And over the next 12 weeks they will be exposed to a myriad of new things.
Through Get Lit’s curriculum/workshops students are introduced to a wide variety of poetic styles from different time periods. They are instructed to analyze, memorize, and perform a classic poem that they select, grasping the vocabulary and high ideals of the piece while connecting the poem to their own lives. They memorize facts about their poet’s life and share these with their class. Next they study poetic terms and form, analyzing the devices used in the poem they have selected, and then responding back to the piece with their own original poem. This poem may model the structure used in the original classic or simply be inspired by the theme, but it must reveal the student’s inner life and be a poetic gem in its own right.
Next the students tackle the memorization and performance of a longer “group” poem along with a group response. For example, students will memorize and perform “Charge of the Light Brigade,” as an intricate group piece and then turn around and perform a modern day spoken word response about the Iraq war or gang violence in Los Angeles. All of this culminates in a graduation ceremony where students demonstrate what they have learned for their parents, faculty and other their peers in the school.
A final anthology of all of the students’ work is created and distributed to each student so they have a record of the entire experience. Students spend 12 hours in the class (often broken up into 12-week workshops) and many more hours outside of class memorizing poems, defining vocabulary definitions, researching information about their classic poets and the time period in which they lived, writing and editing their original poems and practicing their performances. It is a very intense and transformative experience that leaves the students far more knowledgeable about themselves, poetry and the world around them.
At the end of the 12 week period, each of these 2,500 students will go through a “graduation” ceremony where they perform for each other, their parents, and their communities. Then some of the students will choose to go on and compete in a qualifying slam for a spot on their school’s team. Each school will have a team of 4-6 poet representatives. They will have 1 month to practice as a group and come up with 6 classic/response poems needed to compete in the CLASSIC SLAM quarterfinal, semifinal, and Grand Slam Finals events occurring April 27th and April 28th.
There are 108 poets, 18 schools, and 1 ultimate champion.
Teacher, Jose Moreno, from William Workman High School encapsulated this CLASSIC SLAM experience and opportunity perfectly when he said, “The other night, when I stood on the field at our school’s football game and watched those players under the lights, I thought… there’s got to be a way to get more kids into the light.”
“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
William Butler Yeats