Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The History of Spoken Word Poetry

Historical and Cultural Perspectives in Literature

Shelby Blackwood | Published: May 18th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition, A.P. Literature and Composition, American Literature, World Literature
  • Time Frame Time Frame 120 - 180 minutes
  • Duration More 2 - 3 class periods


In this lesson, students evaluate the historical and cultural perspectives behind spoken word poetry. Students review several spoken word poems and analyze their historical, cultural, and social connections while studying the history of spoken word poetry. Students then demonstrate and justify their understanding of the concept of spoken word poetry and its influences and perspectives with a creative final product. This is a multimodality lesson, which means it includes face-to-face, online, and hybrid versions of the lesson. The attachments also include a downloadable Common Cartridge file, which can be imported into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or eKadence. The cartridge includes interactive student activities and teacher's notes.

Essential Question(s)

What impact does history have on literature? How does literature shape or reflect culture?



Students respond to questions after watching a spoken word poetry video.


Students analyze several spoken word poetry videos.


Students read and discuss The History of Spoken Word Poetry.


Students evaluate a spoken word poem and make inferences about the poet’s perspective and influences.


Students use the Color, Symbol, Image strategy to demonstrate their understanding of the history and influences of spoken word poetry.

Instructional Formats

The term "Multimodality" refers to the ability of a lesson to be offered in more than one modality (i.e. face-to-face, online, blended). This lesson has been designed to be offered in multiple formats, while still meeting the same standards and learning objectives. Though fundamentally the same lesson, you will notice that the different modalities may require the lesson to be approached differently. Select the modality that you are interested in to be taken to the section of the course designed for that form of instruction.



  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Note Catcher handout (attached; one for each student)

  • The History of Spoken Word Poetry Resource Page (attached; one for each student)

  • Color, Symbol, Image handout (attached; one for each student)

  • Color, Symbol, Image Rubric (attached; one for each student)

  • Writing paper

  • Pencil or pen

  • Highlighters (optional)

  • Art supplies



15 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with this lesson. Display slide 3. Read aloud the essential questions. Ask students to consider the questions and volunteer any thoughts they might have. Move to slide 4 and briefly discuss the lesson objective.

Display slide 5. Play the video from the link on the slide:

Display slide 6. Review the questions on the slide with students. Ask them to consider the questions and share with an Elbow Partner. After an appropriate amount of time has passed for discussion, ask for volunteers to share their thoughts with the class. Follow up with a whole class discussion.



45 Minute(s)

Display slide 7. Pass out a copy of the attached Note Catcher handout to each student. Explain to students that they will be watching six spoken word poetry videos. For each video, assign them to take notes on their Note Catcher handout.

Have them consider the following questions as they watch the videos:

  • Whom is the poet speaking to (Who is their audience)?

  • From whose perspective is the poet speaking?

  • What is the subject/topic of the poem?

  • How is the topic culturally relevant?

  • How is the topic historically relevant?

  • How is the topic socially relevant?

  • What strategies do the poets use to make their poems relevant?

Review the definition of culturally, historically, and socially relevant, if necessary.

Display slide 8. Play the first video. Allow students time to complete their Note Catcher for each video before moving on to the next presentation.

Display slides 9-13. Continue with the same process of asking students to take notes during each of the videos.

Discuss as a class what stood out in each of the presentations. Ask for volunteers to share any questions about any of the videos. Encourage students to share anything they find interesting, disturbing, or familiar in any of the poems.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 14.

When the class has discussed the videos, assign the handout Resource Page—History of Spoken Word Poetry.

Prompt students to highlight important words or points or take notes in the margins as they read. Ask them to identify any questions the videos may have generated. When they finish reading, ask them to write down the most significant or important point they learned from the text. If needed, review the POMS strategy with the students.

Ask students to discuss their points of significance in small groups and then share out to the whole class. Be sure to address any misconceptions students may have at this time.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 15. Have students choose one of the videos they viewed earlier in the lesson. You may need to review them. Alternatively, they could choose another spoken word poem if they have a favorite. Ask students to watch the video again and answer these questions about their chosen poem:

  • What clues to the poet’s culture can you identify?

  • What historical references does the poet use?

  • What social issue is the poet addressing?

  • What does the poet think society expects from them?

  • Why did the poet chose spoken word poetry over other mediums of expression?

Ask students to consider these questions carefully, to write their answers to the questions on a sheet of paper (students could also use a Google Doc, if you prefer) with the name of the video they chose, and turn in their answers.



45 Minute(s)

Display slide 16. Review the CSI: Color, Symbol, Image strategy with students if needed.

Pass out a copy of the Color, Symbol, Image handout and the Color, Symbol, Image Rubric to each student. Explain to students that they will reflect on what they have learned about the historical, social, and/or cultural perspectives and influences of spoken word poetry using a color, a symbol, and an image. They will also write a brief statement explaining why they chose that color, symbol, and image to represent their thinking.