It starts with a memory, a question, a life changing event and may be wrapped in metaphors. It conveys a story, shares one’s truth and lends a glimpse to an experience. It provides perspective and an avenue to leverage one’s voice. This is poetry and for three days Northshore students and staff experienced poetry through Project VOICE’s spoken word poets Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye.
The duo are co-directors of Project VOICE; an organization that partners with schools and uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire. Collectively they have performed in thirty countries on stages from TED Talks to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and garnered over twenty million views online.
During their visit to Northshore, the pair visited Crystal Springs Elementary, Northshore Middle and North Creek High School, as well as held two professional development sessions for staff. In addition, they offered an inspiring evening for the Northshore community at large.
While at schools, students not only had the opportunity to hear some of Kay and Kaye’s spoken word poetry, but also heard some of their personal stories and ask questions at a school assembly.
A number of students at the secondary level followed the assembly with a workshop led by the duo. Here, students were asked to think about five personal truths. From this the two had students select one idea to elaborate on using sensory details and then select a portion of their writing where they identified a few strong words they liked. Ultimately, students worked on performing and adding motions to their identified words.
"It's really important that we provide opportunities for students to share their voices, stories, culture and perspective,” said Assistant Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Christy Clausen. “Spoken word poetry can provide a unique forum for students and adults to articulate an experience or message about themselves. While each word is intentionally selected, students can share their personal stories in a way that empowers and invites others to listen."
The pair spent two afternoons with Northshore staff to inspire them and share with them strategies around spoken word that they could then take back to their students. The 90-minute workshops outlined what spoken word is, why the art form is used and how to teach students techniques for success. Three key questioned guided the workshops: What do I write? How do I write about it? How do I perform it? Teachers practiced the techniques they’d use with students. Teachers were also encouraged to establish structures for feedback, low-stake opportunities to try out writing techniques and to focus on the overall process, instead of the product. This professional development was made possible because of the generous support of the Northshore Schools Foundation.
At an evening event for the Northshore community, Kay and Kaye performed nearly a dozen pieces for more than 200 attendees, mostly middle and high school students. Their poems had messages related to friendship, love, childhood perspective, divorce and even life as the Geiko Gecko.
Before they closed their performance, the two welcomed a question and answer session. Some asked who their favorite poets are while others were curious about the importance of the spoken word medium.
“For me the best examples of spoken word poetry are poems where when you are experiencing them out loud in a room there’s some part of your brain that’s like oh man I really have to be here, I really have to see this, I really have to experience this here. And if I were to read it on a piece of paper it wouldn’t be the same,” said Kay. “But similarly there are poems that are written to be on the piece of paper and if you were to read them out loud you would miss some of the things that the poet is very intentionally doing for the paper. To me it’s more about creating a piece of art that has markers in the art such that the person experiencing it gets to celebrate the form that it’s in.”
Northshore values the arts and opportunities that empower students to share their stories. Honoring each student’s background, perspective and culture supports the District’s Strategic Goal 2: Responsible, Empathetic and Resilient Learners. To that end, and to continue the learning from Project VOICE, students, staff and the community will have an opportunity to share their own spoken word at Northshore Speaks. The event will be held from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16 at Woodinville High School.
Submissions to perform are being accepted through Wednesday, May 1, 2019 from all Northshore students, staff, families and community members interested in performing at Northshore Speaks.
If you’re not interested in speaking, you’re more than welcome to attend. Space is limited, so please reserve your ticket. The event is suitable for Northshore families. All submissions will be considered accordingly.
"We hope that Northshore Speaks provides a place for students and families to share their personal stories or experiences while audience members reflect, connect, and ponder ideas presented through the spoken word experience," said Clausen.