As part of Willow’s new Working Writers speaker series, sixth grade students recently participated in a poetry residency with Jacob Winterstein. Jacob has taught poetry, performance, and improvisational rapping at schools, universities and community centers. He is the co-founder of the Philly Pigeon Poetry Slam, a Philadelphia Magazine Best of Philly 2012 winner, and a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge winner.
Through a series of three workshops, students worked with Jacob and Willow English teacher Ms. Coy to write, develop, and perform original poems. The workshops didn’t look like your typical English class. During the first session, students stood in a circle, saying and echoing each other’s names to learn and practice rhythm over hip-hop beats. They played word association games with their peers to improve their improvisation and broaden their brainstorming. As they developed their poems, based on people, places, and living things they cared about, students incorporated visual imagery, symbolism, repetition, similes, metaphors, and other craft elements into their work.
The residency culminated in a Poetry Café, complete with hot cocoa and treats. At the café, students performed their beautiful, thoughtful poems to their supportive family and friends. Listen to Mia Rivera-Diaz recite her moving poem below:
At the end of the night, two students joined Jacob onstage as he performed an improvised, freestyle poem. It was a fun end to a great night!
Willow’s Working Writers speaker series features lectures and workshops presented by talented literary professionals. Each session is designed to educate students about professional literary opportunities and to expose students to different writing methodologies. Students learn useful tips and strategies to improve their own reading and writing. These writers inspire our students to expand their own literary acumen and appreciate the transformative role that writing and communication play in our society.
“We want to bring literacy to life for our students and to provide them with as many authentic reading and writing experiences as possible,” 6th grade English teacher Meagan Coy said. “The speaker series is just one more way to achieve this goal.”
The speaker series will continue with a comedian, publisher, and lyricist–dates to be announced soon!