Is there a better way to engage High School students in writing poetry than to see a World Champion Slam Poet in action? Erie, Frederick, and Mead High Schools in SVVSD were lucky enough to have that opportunity in September, courtesy of the High Plains Library District. The annual Teen Tour 2017 featured Joaquin Zihuatanejo, a Slam Poet who has won both US and International Slam Poetry Championship Titles.
Mr. Zihuatanejo, a former English teacher from Dallas, Texas, provided a one hour workshop in the library open to any class at the schools. He delivered several poems and spoke of his life and experiences at the heart of his writing, engaging students with his honesty and clear focus on writing from the heart.
As we often hear from writers, he writes what he knows from his life experiences. The poems are deeply personal, but share common ground with the listener. Even those students who were not interested in the beginning could not help but be swept into the fast-paced presentation and Mr. Zihuatanejo’s passion for poetry. As a Spanish speaker, he wove phrases and words from Spanish into the poetry. I watched as students who often don’t relate to writing, began to “lean in” at the back of the room. Following the presentation at the end of the school day, he offered a writers workshop for anyone who was interested in staying. At Frederick HS about a dozen students and 5 adults stayed to participate and write a poem and left with starting ideas for a dozen more. Frederick held a Slam Poetry festival last Thursday in their school library. Here is a link to a video of The Poem for Jon that Mr. Zihuatanejo performed for us.
Thank you Ms. SullivanBlan for creating a opportunity for young writers to share their new found voice!
The High Plains Library system is a community partner that provides literacy and community educational supports for free to the area. Books may be checked out in person or via the web through the same system, OverDrive, that is used by the students in school on their iPads.
Click here to learn more about using the district’s digital library, and check out your local community library, too!