Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Speak Your Truth

Techniques in Spoken Word Poetry

Shelby Blackwood | Published: August 12th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course Composition, Creative Writing
  • Duration More 2 weeks


There is a special kind of magic in hearing the words you have written spoken out loud. Spoken word poetry is meant to be heard and performed rather than read silently from a page. In this lesson, students analyze the techniques spoken word poets use to engage an audience and examine the devices they use to pack power into their poems. Students will explore their identities and their voices as they compose and perform their own spoken word poems as a finale to the lesson. This lesson is intended as a follow-up to the History of Spoken Word Poetry lesson, but it can also stand alone.

Essential Question(s)

How does our ability to use language empower us?



Students use a Tell Me Everything strategy to evoke prior knowledge of spoken word poetry.


Students view and analyze performance techniques in spoken word poetry videos.


Students observe how a spoken word poet writes a poem.


Students compose original spoken word poems.


Students perform their spoken word poems.



20 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide this lesson.

Display slide 3. Read aloud the essential question. Ask students to consider the question and volunteer any thoughts they may have about it. Move to slide 4 and briefly discuss the lesson objectives.

Display slide 5. If needed, review with students the Tell Me Everything strategy. Ask students to take out a blank piece of paper and create a list or web with answers to the prompt: Tell me everything you know about spoken word poetry. Set a 3-minute timer and assign students to create their lists or webs.

When time is up, ask students to share with a partner or small group. Have them add any new information they learn to their lists or web. Ask groups to share out with the class any of the important information they gathered.

Address any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge before proceeding.


60 Minute(s)

Pass out a copy of the attached Note Catcher to each student. Display slide 6. Explain to students they will watch several spoken word poetry videos.

Show slide 7. As they watch the videos and take notes, they should keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What is the subject of the poem?

  2. What tone is conveyed in the presentation?

  3. What performance techniques engage the audience?

    • Body movement

    • Hand gestures

    • Dramatic pauses

    • Varying volume

    • Varying tempo

  4. What words do poets use?

  5. What literary elements do poets use?

    • Repetition

    • Rhyme

    • Assonance

    • Alliteration

    • Wordplay

Ask students to take notes on their Note Catcher as they watch the videos. Let them know that they will use their notes for the next activity. Have students watch at least three videos. Ask students to review and complete their notes between videos.

Show slide 16. When students have completed their Note Catcher, review the 3-2-1 strategy, if necessary. Students should answer the following questions using the 3-2-1 Strategy:

  • Identify 3 things you noticed about the performance techniques (movements, hand gestures, dramatic pauses, varying volume, tempo, etc.).

  • Identify 2 things you noticed about the literary elements used (repetition, assonance, alliteration, wordplay, rhyme, etc.).

  • Identify 1 thing you noticed about the subject/topic/tone of the poems.

Ask students to share and discuss their 3-2-1 with a partner. Allow volunteers to share with the whole class.


40 Minute(s)

Display slide 18. Watch the "Writing A Spoken Word Poem In One Hour" video. The poet walks us through her creative process of developing a spoken word poem.

Display slide 19. After students watch the "Writing a Spoken Word Poem in One Hour" video, watch the second video by Taz Alam, "Fake Friends." The poet performs the poem she wrote in the previous video.

Make a class list of the writing and performing pointers and techniques the poet mentioned and uses in her spoken word poetry.


120 Minute(s)

Display slide 20. Announce to students they will now be writing their own spoken word poem. Review some of the writing tips. A copy of the Spoken Word Poetry Writing Tips is attached and can be distributed to students.

Display slide 21. Explain to students that these are only suggestions for their poem topic, but they are free to choose anything not listed here as long as it is appropriate and you have approved the topic. The length of the poem will be left to your (the teacher’s) discretion.

Pass out a copy of the attached Spoken Word Poetry Rubric handout to each student. Review the categories with the students and explain that the rubric will be how their learning will be assessed. Since students will be writing a full spoken word poem, this activity could take several days to complete, so plan accordingly.


180 Minute(s)

Display slide 22. Once students have written and revised their spoken word poem, they will then perform it by reading aloud to their classmates. Review some of the performance techniques learned throughout the lesson. The Spoken Word Poetry Performance Tips handout is attached and can be distributed to students. Remind students to refer to their Spoken Word Poetry Rubric to see how their performance will be assessed.

Students will likely need more time to practice their performance of their poem. Consider giving time in class and ask them to practice out of class to perfect the performance on their own.

Display slide 23. When it is time to perform their poetry, remind students of the audience rules.