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Slam Poetry Day 1: Speak. Your. Truth.

So, you’re intrigued by slam poetry, and you want to know how to start using it in the classroom.  I get it; slam poetry is so awesome, sometimes I am intimidated by teaching it.  But, the good news is that more than likely, your kids are going to love it. And when that happens, you’ve got some serious teacher power on your hands.

Slam Poetry Unit Plan--166 pages of lesson plans, power point slides, and poems your students will LOVE–Looking for a slam-poetry unit plan? Click here–>

This lesson plan I’ve included here was part of a larger poetry unit.  We had covered lots of different poetic devices through other poems, but I hadn’t shown them slam poetry as an example, yet.  Throughout my units, no matter what unit it is, I try to angle the purpose as that we learn how to write so that we can change the world.  I give a huge talk at the beginning of the year when I’m explaining the course about changing the world with our writing (which I hope to write about soon), and so I try to connect back to it every unit.  During our fiction unit we use this idea to emphasize theme, and during our argumentative we actually had a “democracy party” this year, where if kid wrote to someone real about something real that could change, they could participate.

Another note about this lesson is that I like it to be the first slam poem that the kids see.  Before showing it, I give a preview about what the poet’s topic will be, that he uses a lot of poetic devices, blah blah blah.  I kid you not, every year, after I give this preview when I show the video, there are a couple black students in my room that react in surprise that the poet is black.  The power of representation is strong, people.  No joke.  That’s one reason you might notice that my list of my favorite slam poems, I strove for a variety of races.  Our kids deserve and need to see themselves in our examples of experts.

Ok, off my soap boxes.  Here is the lesson plan with accompanying materials.  A quick note: if you feel like your kids might need more than one slam poetry example, I did include a slide with hyperlinks to other awesome examples (and also I have a more comprehensive list of slam poem videos for the classroom here).  You have the option to show the examples to the whole class, or use the slide as self-paced differentiation→ which I explain how to do here.

Ok, for real: here is the lesson plan!

Slam Poetry Day 1 Lesson Plan

Learning Objectives:  

  • Students will be able to……..
    •  Come up with and start a poem about something that is meaningful to them.
    •  Apply techniques we’ve learned about over the last week (alliteration, rhyme, repetition, shape, similes) to enhance meaning of the poem.


Intro/Mini-lesson – 10 min
Do Now Slide: Question: What are 5 problems or things that you would change about the world if you could?   (Explanation for kids if they need it: If you could change anything about the world, what would it be? Maybe it’s as simple as a later start time for school, or maybe it’s that you wish bullying didn’t exist, or perhaps that everyone was vegetarian.  If you had the control to change one thing in the world, what would it be?  Optional: show your own notebook where you made your own list.)

  1. Attention grabber: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been sitting in class and wondered, yeah yeah, I get it…but what’s the point?”  Today is the point.
  2. Connection (to past teaching): “We’ve been working on writing effective poems, and today, we are going to channel that energy into writing about something that means something to you.”
  3. Teaching: “We’re going to watch this Slam Poem, and see if it can give you ideas for writing OR for how to write your poem.  (Play video)”
    1. Active engagement: “Take a second, jot down some things you noticed that he did as a poet, and feel free to jot down ideas for what to write about as well.”  (give them 1 minute to write, then 30 seconds to talk with a partner–feel free to write as your kids are writing if your class can handle it.)
    2. Model how it gave me ideas of both topics and techniques (show my own notebook page–either pre-written or written as the kids were writing)
  4. Instructions for today:
    1. Now, take a look at all of the topic ideas you came up with today, star your favorite one.
    2. (Show slides with sentence starters from Slam Poetry Power Point)  Now that you know what you might want to write about, here are some ideas for how to start your poem.  (Note: if you think the kids need more poem examples, you could either show another example from this slide–there are links!–or encourage them to check them out on their own that day if they have access to computers)
  5. Link (how is this useful outside of today):  Writing poetry can be fun, and it can also be moving.  Push yourself to write a poem that can INSPIRE today. Don’t worry about making your poem a poem today.  Worry about writing from the heart–we’ll mold it into a poem later.
Work/ Conference time – 30 min
  1. Be looking for: work where students used a poetic device we’ve talked about
  2. Anticipated troubles:
    1. Back-up idea: have the student write a list of 10 things you know to be true→ make a poem about that list
    2. Students not being able to come up with an idea: check students’ lists of 5 things to change—if done, play with the ideas they have, if not done, coach them through finishing it.
    3. Students having trouble starting the poem→ direct students to example starters–show them how to use one.  Click on one of the links and have the student watch another example using one of the starters.
  3. Forms of assessment:
    1. Walk around and read over shoulders, marking on roster if students are
      1. Writing a poem that’s meaningful and
      2. Using poetic devices we’ve talked about
    2. Use conference log to record conferences I hold
    3. Have students fill out exit slip that states what their topic was and poetic devices they used in their poem
Closure – 5 min
  1. Find 2 students to share, ask them during work time OR have volunteers share
  2. Publicly compliment their use of what we learned about during class
  3. Say:
    1. I’m so glad you took the plunge and wrote about something that mattered to you today.  I saw so many ways you were incorporating sound devices and poetic techniques to enhance your meaning.  Tonight, finish these poems, and next week, we are going to start picking which poems will go into your portfolio of work.

And that’s it!  A Writing Workshop Slam Poetry starter-lesson.  The possibilities of where to go from here are endless.  Show another slam tomorrow and write a new poem?   Continue to hone the one from today?  Workshop poems in groups tomorrow to add the poetic devices we’ve been talking about?  Up to you.  

Pin it for later!

PERFECT way to get kids writing meaningful poetry. Slam Poetry Lesson Plan to introduce your students to #slampoetry. Could be adjusted and used for grades 4-12.

I’ve made updates to this lesson plan since posting it! You can download ready-to-go slides, an easy-to-use handout, and Word-version of the updated lesson plan for FREE here.



Want to see this lesson plan in action?

One Week Slam Poetry Mini-Unit--designed to be stand-alone OR inserted into your current poetry unit. Perfect to add interest, energy, and meaning into your students' poetry experience. My Slam Poetry Mini-Unit uses this lesson as one of 5 to take students through brainstorming, drafting, planning, and performing a meaningful slam poem, all in a week.  It’s the perfect chunk of lessons to add slam poetry into a poetry unit, or to fill a week with engaging, meaningful content for students.




Slam Poetry Unit Plan--166 pages of lesson plans, power point slides, and poems your students will LOVE

Want even MORE slam poetry lessons?  This Slam Poetry Unit Plan includes a full 3 weeks of lessons similar to this one, taking students through drafting and revising multiple poems with a student-planned performance at the end.




Good for ANY type of writing you have your students do, this is a lesson plan with handouts, slides, and even tips for how to help students hone their peer conferences for each other.

You’d probably also like this Peer Conference/Feedback lesson plan.  It’s good to use for ANY type of writing and designed to lift both student’s academic conversations and writing.  Swoon.




Also these FREE resources:

25+ Slam Poems Appropriate for Middle School and High School–my most viewed post by far.  Check it out for more ideas or put a link on your class website to let kids explore.

20 Ways to Help Reluctant Writers in your Classroom–a list of ways you can make your classroom more friendly to students reluctant to write, as well as trouble-shooting ideas for students who refuse to write.

How to Teach Students to Own that Speech–a lesson plan I’ve also adapted for teaching Slam Poetry, this is the perfect lesson before your slam poetry competition.

Teaching Writing Pinterest Board–My spot to collect all the most useful resources I can find for teaching writing–if you like this post, you’re sure to like this collection.

ELA Resources Pinterest Board–A collation of engaging, best-practice resources for ELA teachers.

My Teachers Pay Teachers Store–If you liked this, you’re sure to like resources in my store. I’ve taught writing for grades 6, 7, 8, 10, and 12, so teaching writing is my store’s specialty!



  1. Thank you for the Slam Poetry Lesson. Just completed this last week and I was very excited about the thoughtful, insightful discussion from the poem “Touchscreen”. My 8th grade students could relate, were reflective about the “issues” presented and engaged in lively discussion. This poem is packed full of mini-issues that can be unpacked for an even more in-depth study. We hit several, but could have done more! Again, thank you for sharing this lesson.

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