Connecting to prior knowledge
‘Limelight’ word web
Allow students 5–10 minutes to reflect on the meaning of the word ‘limelight’. They can record their thoughts and ideas in a word web in their reading journals.
Introduce Solli Raphael’s book Limelight to students, looking closely at the cover. Read the blurb and ask them to review (i.e. make additions, changes and/or connections) their word webs based on the cover and blurb.
Allow 5–10 minutes for students to walk around the room, looking at and discussing other word webs before changing or adding to their own.
Create a class word web
Have students select a word or phrase from their word webs and write it on a post-it note to create a class word web. Alternatively, use Jamboard (G Suite) so students can add digital post-it notes with their responses. Review and discuss the class word web, pointing out similarities and patterns from which you can make predictions and pose ‘wondering’ questions. Record these to refer back to throughout the unit.
Activating prior knowledge, building vocabulary and making connections
Display the blurb for Limelight on a projected screen such as an IWB or Apple TV. Ask students to read the blurb and list new vocabulary, key words and phrases in their reading journals. These could include:
|inspires social change
|world of verse
|be a game changer with me
|the future needs you and me
|create equality across all levels of humanity
Together clarify any words or phrases that students have questions about. Then, in pairs, have students select 6–8 of these and write them on a blank page, spread out with a dot next to each. They will draw lines between the words/phrases and write down how they are connected. Alternatively, they could use Google Drawings to create their dot-to-dot connections. Refer to this sheet (PDF, 59KB) for an example.
Have students formulate some initial predictions with reasons, connections and evidence to support their thinking. They will share their responses with the class.
Poems: stories told in a creative way
Read Limelight’s introduction and first chapter aloud.
Display and read the following quote: ‘I think poems are like stories being told in a really creative way’ (p. 10). Ask students to reflect on this statement.
Present, read and discuss some well-known poems, such as My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, and stories including Jackie French and Bruce Whatley’s Cyclone, Drought, Fire and Flood. All are rich in vocabulary and creative expression. Discuss these texts in relation to Solli’s quote.
Prompt students to explore the purpose, structure, themes, imagery, language patterns and world issues that these texts address so powerfully with figurative language to build emotional connection and engagement. Review examples of figurative language. Allow students time to record examples from these and other texts. These might include ballads, song lyrics and other stories, including Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks’ Fox and Maia Walczak’s The Black Hat. Encourage students to explore how figurative language, imagery, language patterns and vocabulary choices can express shades of meaning and feeling. Have them share their ideas and discoveries with the class and record these on a poster to refer to during the unit. See an example of a figurative language poster (PDF, 86KB).
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Meet Solli Raphael
Public speaking at school and in the community
Identify public speaking opportunities in your school and/or community where students, youth or presenters can deliver speeches and speak to an audience.
Share a range of examples of persuasive texts, written debates, speeches and Solli’s poetry (Part 2, commencing at p. 49), and view Voice of Youth and State Debating Championships clips. Compare these texts by identifying their structures, language features, purposes and effects. More work will be done on this throughout the unit.
In 2017, at the age of 12, Solli became the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam.
After watching some of his performance, ask students to imagine how Solli felt performing onstage at this momentous event. Invite them to contribute their opinions and own experiences. In groups of two or three, have students describe and record these emotions. Encourage them to use the senses and figurative language (including similes, metaphors and personification). Have the groups view each other’s responses by rotating and stopping to read them.
What is slam poetry?
Watch ‘Solli Raphael, Slam Poetry Champion – Behind the News’ and read Chapter 2: Slam Poetry. Ask students to create a list noting the features of slam poetry, then have them form small groups and take turns sharing their ideas. Continue around the group until each person’s list is finished.
Display each group’s final list.
Public speaking and slam poetry
Discuss how language features (including modality, repetition and metaphor) achieve persuasive purposes, and what effects they have on an audience. As a class, discuss some of the similarities and differences between slam poetry and various forms of public speaking.
Rich assessment task
To identify the specific features of slam poetry by comparing it to another form of public speaking.
Having discussed various examples of public speaking, have students create their own Venn diagrams to compare and contrast a form of public speaking (e.g. a speech) with slam poetry. Construct the success criteria together with students, listing features to include in their work:
- vocabulary choices
- specific features
- language features
- places and locations of delivery
This could also be done in a Google Doc with hyperlinked examples.
Responding to the text
Why slam poetry? Exploring the purpose
Highlight the following quote – ‘Poetry can inspire positive change. Be a game changer’ – and ask students to reflect on the purpose of slam poetry. Invite them to record their thoughts and ideas on a word web.
Next, view the behind-the-scenes clip for ‘Let’s Make More Minutes Count’. Allow students to expand their word webs and then walk around the room, looking at and discussing other webs before changing or adding to their own. Review and discuss student responses and create a class poster to refer to during the unit (this could be done digitally using Jamboard).
Solli’s poems: creating a response wall
Modelled and joint
Read and discuss Solli’s poetry (pp. 49–57); explicitly model understanding and wonderings by using the ‘think aloud’ strategy. Then select one of the poems from Limelight to respond to as a class. Create a response wall by using post-it notes to record ideas, opinions, responses and wondering questions about the poem.
Small group work: building on the response wall
Students will form small groups to read one of Solli’s poems. Group members will take turns to share one observation about their assigned poem. They will then use post-it notes to add ideas, opinions, connections, literal information, inferences and wondering questions around the poem to the response wall. Have groups view and add to each other’s responses by rotating and stopping to read different post-it notes. Students can identify similarities and differences between the poems. Responses can then be shared with the class to deepen the learning.
Exploring themes and features of slam poetry
Read Chapter 4: Performing (p. 31). View all or part of the following performances:
- 2019 Australian Poetry Slam: Victorian Winner (Zaynab Farah)
- Australian Poetry Slam 2018 (wāni Le Frère)
- Australian Poetry Slam Champion 2017 – Youth (Solli Raphael)
- Champion Slam Poet slams Greed, Capitalism and Apathy as cause of Climate Change (Solli Raphael)
As a class, brainstorm or Jamboard the features of poetry slams and the powerful effects they can have on an audience. Prompt students to identify similarities and differences between the performances (with reference to language, themes, modality, repetition and delivery) and how this influences personal responses from the audience.
The power of poetry slams in the 21st century
The blurb on Limelight’s back cover states that slam poetry can ‘inspire social change and positive action’. Discuss this quote and how poetry slams might do this in the 21st century.
In groups of 3–4, invite students to record their ideas for the purpose of delivering a short speech or performance about slam poetry’s effects and influences. They can integrate quotes from Solli to further support their view. Examples might include:
- ‘Poetry can inspire positive change. Be a game changer’ (blurb)
- ‘The future needs you and me to create equality across all levels of humanity’ (blurb)
- ‘take a positive stance for change’ (p. 42)
- ‘make a stand in the areas important to our everyday lives’ (p. 42)
- ‘be a game changer with me and make tomorrow better than today by putting your ideas, thoughts and beliefs into the limelight’ (p. 44)
Now read Chapter 5: Opportunity (p. 40). Following this reading, conduct a practise poetry slam so that students have an opportunity to perform one of Solli’s poems (or part of a poem) for an audience. Review the elements of drama (Creative Arts K–6 syllabus, pp. 92–93) so that students can apply these to their performance.
You could (optionally) record the practise so that students can view, reflect and self-assess their own performance. Peers can also give feedback by ‘snapping’. When the audience responds positively to a line of slam poetry, they snap their fingers. This allows the audience’s appreciation to be heard without interrupting the performance. Snapping is the new clapping!
Rich assessment task
To analyse and compare Solli’s poems, and describe how slam poetry can ‘inspire social change and positive action’ in the 21st century.
Before beginning, collaboratively create success criteria with students, listing features to include in their work. These could include quotes from Solli, presentation modes, elements of drama, features of poetry slams, language features and structure.
- Ask students to use a Venn diagram or response wall to compare two of Solli’s poems, identifying and analysing their similarities and differences.
- Individually or in pairs, ask students to describe how slam poetry can ‘inspire social change and positive action’ in the 21st They can present their ideas using Google Slides and include a range of multimodal elements in their presentation.
Examining text structure and organisation
Solli’s poems: structure and features
List and record any features of Solli’s poetry that capture students’ interest. Elements could include:
- figurative language
- italics for sung sections
- words in bold
- spaced words
- condensed lines for fast tempo sections (p. 50).
As a class, watch Solli perform ‘Australian Air’ (p. 63 in the text), looking specifically for elements of the poem’s structure, organisation and delivery. Discuss and share observations.
Invite students to examine and compare Solli’s poems, highlighting examples of text features as listed above. These features can be highlighted, shared and added to the response wall.
Follow up by reading Chapter 3: Ideas Don’t Grow on Trees (p. 19).
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Start a discussion on the irregular rhythm and repeated sounds in slam poetry (e.g. alliteration, internal rhyme, consonance, assonance).
Examining figurative language and vocabulary in Solli’s poems
Solli recommends using figurative speech to make writing interesting (p. 20), and reports using this device to create ideas for his poetry.
Return to the response wall and highlight the figurative language in each poem. Students can share their thoughts to highlight the meaning. Rewordify may be a useful tool for examining and making meaning of the figurative language and vocabulary in the poems.
After teacher modelling and guided practise, put students in small groups to examine one of Solli’s poems and highlight the figurative language used. Group members will take turns to say one thing about their assigned poem. Each group can use a T-chart to help ‘chart the text’ and record their ideas using inferences and evidence (I think … because).
Before beginning, brainstorm possible discussion points such as the poem’s meaning, purpose, language features, themes and/or vocabulary.
Ideas can be shared and added to the response wall.
Rich assessment task
To examine figurative language in a poem by Solli Raphael.
Before beginning, collaboratively create success criteria with students, listing features to include in their work. For example: identifying text features and elements, including italics for sung sections; bold words; spaced words; condensed lines for fast tempo sections; highlighting the figurative language and vocabulary used in the poem.
Students will select one of Solli’s poems to examine using a T-chart, recording their ideas using inferences and evidence (I think … means … because …).
Creating a slam poem
Ideas journal: gathering ideas
Invite students to decide on a theme or topic that they are passionate about as the basis for their own slam poems. Working individually, they will brainstorm and record a range of vocabulary, figurative speech, ballads, song lyrics, stories and other ideas related to their topic. This will be their personal ideas journal: a toolkit enabling them to experiment with text structure and language features (e.g. word choice, figurative language, imagery) to create their own poetry. Students should consider the use of irregular rhythm and repeated sounds such as alliteration, internal rhyme, consonance and assonance. As students explore a range of poetry, they can identify the relationship between words and make use of sounds, imagery and language patterns.
Next review a range of poems with students, examining language and text structures and experimenting with reading them aloud. Students will observe a variety of text features and elements in the poems, including figurative language, italics for sung sections, bold words, spaced words and condensed lines for fast tempo sections. They can also refer to the class response wall to identify these features in Solli’s poems and consider including some in their own.
Now read and review the poster with recorded examples of figurative language in ballads, song lyrics, poems and stories (Literature). Find examples of figurative language in movie clips, commercials and songs to add to the poster. Provide time for students to add to their ideas journal, recording words, phrases and new vocabulary that captures their interest and could be used in their own poem.
Finally, direct students to find a range of powerful words that relate to their chosen topic in magazines. They can cut, sort and arrange the words to create phrases for their ideas journal. Encourage them to experiment with text structure, figurative language, imagery, sentence variation, line breaks and word choice, and to think about irregular rhythm and repeated sounds if appropriate.
After teacher modelling and guided practise, collaboratively create success criteria with students as they commence the process of writing their own poems. Students will use their ideas journal to plan, draft, edit, read aloud, add to, change, rehearse, revise and rework their poem, constantly referring back to the success criteria (which can include elements of delivery). They may create their poem in a Google Doc.
Year 6 poetry slam
Students will rehearse, deliver and present their slam poems to a Year 6 audience using appropriate volume, tone, pitch and pace, with audiences snapping to show their appreciation.
Rich assessment task
Students will examine, analyse and self-evaluate their poems using the success criteria. They will highlight and record the features that they have included in their poems and note sections where their audience snapped.
The teacher will then assess student poems using the criteria.