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Piner Middle School Students Showcase Skills at Annual Poetry Slam

slam Piner Middle School held its annual Poetry Slam showcasing students' love of poetry and artistic abilities. During the one-day event, students presented their original poems to classmates, teachers, and a panel of judges, and prizes were awarded to the top three students at each grade level. The event has become a hit on campus, allowing students to express themselves through the arts.

Piner’s reading department head, Jennifer McCarthy reminisces on why she began the slam six years ago. 

“I have always looked for ways to engage my students in poetry, as it is one of the parts of Language Arts that many try to avoid. The slam was something we thought could be fun and engaging, but it would also allow the kids to truly express themselves.”

poetry slam Teachers like McCarthy often seek ways to engage students in the classroom. Poetry can be intimidating to many. Students often recall writing poetry in elementary school, but at most, they remember writing a haiku (a three line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern). Poetry is unique in not having the same constraints an essay has, thereby allowing the students to enjoy it even more. 

“When the students see how much I love poetry and how fun it can be, they really begin to engage in the lessons. They begin to understand that what they are learning is not about another set of notes, or another writing assignment, but rather a way of expression.”

Poetry allows students to express themselves at such a pivotal point in their adolescence, while also practicing public speaking.

slam Eighth grade student Alyssa Carr was encouraged by classmates to participate in the slam.

“I originally didn't want to participate in the poetry slam,” said Carr. “However, whenever I would show my friends my poem they kept on saying that it was really good and that I should enter it in the poetry slam. I decided to enter the slam because in the best case scenario I get first place.”

The slam's popularity has also grown more within the community, and this is the first year the seventh-grade class has done their own slam. Students are already looking forward to the eighth-grade slam. 

Ella Woody was one of those seventh graders whose friends made her excited about the idea of competing.

“I became interested in the poetry slam last year when a friend of mine told me about it,” expressed Woody. “She was very excited to compete in it and even practiced reading her poem to me. I knew right away that I would want to compete when I was in eighth-grade. I have always loved writing poetry. I loved reading Shel Silverstein's poems.  When Mrs. McCarthy told us about it, I was already excited to write.”

slam The first year of the slam was held with in-class competitions. The winners got a pat on the back and a participation grade. It eventually progressed to several rounds of competition where the top three winners were named from each class period, along with certificates and gift cards as prizes.

SISD Superintendent Dr, David Hicks along with several other staff and community partners supported the event by serving as judges. The slam was also live-streamed for parents and other Piner students.

Like Carr, plenty of future of winners tuned in, inspired to participate next year.

“Through this experience I was able to reach outside of my comfort zone, which I very rarely do. What I love most is I would normally be too shy to say certain things aloud but I get to express it in my poetry.”

Jasmine Baker
jbaker@shermanisd.net