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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 2: Engagement and Dialogue - Judith Ortiz Cofer and Nikki Grimes
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Making Connections with Texts
Creating Visual Representations and Symbols
Open Microphone
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Teaching Strategies
Open Microphone

Description

Open microphone (often called open mic or open mike) is a strategy in which students write and perform their own poetry for an audience. The poetry usually reveals the writer's emotions about a personal topic or social issue such as identity, discrimination, or justice. Often students appreciate an open mic session after they write poetry in response to published poems, such as those of Nikki Grimes.

Open Microphone in Akiko Morimoto's Classroom

After her students read Bronx Masquerade and meet author Nikki Grimes, Morimoto extends their engagement with poetry and offers them an experience similar to that of the characters in the book by organizing an after-school open mic session for them. The students are encouraged to write poems for the event. This not only provides a forum for students' voices but also, as educator Tonya Perry notes, "Many standards were met in this after-school time. Academically we see voice, we see tone, mood. We see the ability to connect to an audience. We see the writing skills, the drafting that obviously has taken place. It's academic, social, it's emotional -- the open mic session certainly spoke to different parts of the middle schooler." (See Student Work.)

Tips and Variations for the Open Microphone Strategy


  • As the students select poetry for an open mic session, they should consider their audience. By selecting a topic or issue that has personal and/or social relevance, the students communicate their feelings and insights, but they should also consider what message they want to convey to their peers. One way to encourage this is to have them practice reading their poetry aloud in small groups before the open mic session.

  • Their listeners might consider the following questions:

    • How does the speaker's voice convey his or her emotions about the topic or issue?

    • Which words does the speaker emphasize?

    • How do the volume, pace, and rhythm of the speaker's voice communicate the poem's meaning?

    • How do the speaker's nonverbal gestures, body posture, eye contact, and facial expressions enhance the performance?

    • What is the overall effect of the poetry performance on the audience?

  • If the students are revising the poems as they practice reading, the listeners can also ask:

    • What is this poem saying? What is its message or focus? Is it clear? What words express it especially well?

    • Look at the poem's structure. How does it begin, build, and end? How well does that structure lead the audience through the message or theme of the poem?

    • Which words, phrases, or images in this poem are especially powerful? How do they seem to contribute to the speaker's tone (or attitude about what he or she is saying)?


  • Based on the feedback from their classmates, the students can revise their poems and polish their presentations. Teachers may audio- or videotape the rehearsals so that the students can critique their own (and each other's) performances. If the live performance includes the use of the microphone, students should practice with it to find out how they can alter their vocal performance through feedback, "noise," volume, and the use of hand gestures.

  • The open mic event is often held in a community venue, such as a café or small theater. The audience is an important partner in the performance; teachers should encourage listeners to participate by snapping fingers, clapping hands, or stomping feet.

  • After the open mic event, the teacher and students can discuss how the audience responded to the poetry performances.

  • Note: Open mic sessions, such as Morimoto's and the session depicted in Bronx Masquerade, are different from poetry slams. Both poetry slams and open mic sessions are casual, but poetry slams have a competitive component in which the audience "votes" on the best poem/performance. They are also more structured than open mic sessions, although rules vary greatly.

Benefits of the Open Microphone Strategy


  • Open mic sessions build students' creative expression skills.

  • Students who prepare for an open mic session learn to consider audience; they also become aware of the connections among reading, writing, speaking, and listening. For example, during rehearsal, students use speaking skills to convey their feelings and listening skills to offer feedback.

  • In Morimoto's class, the open mic session helped her students to enact an event in a book and therefore connect to it viscerally.

  • By participating in an open mic session, students see themselves as real poets with a real audience. This encourages them to hone their individual voices.

  • By writing, rehearsing, and performing work for classmates, students create a meaningful classroom community.

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