Through the literary and performing arts, Southern Word, a non-profit based in Nashville, Tennessee, offers creative solutions for youth to build literacy and presentation skills, reconnect to their education and to their lives, and act as leaders in the improvement of their communities. In 2016-17, Southern Word worked with 5,100 students in 42 schools in eight counties, primarily in middle and west Tennessee. Southern Word has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its successful poetry residency program to even more Tennessee schools in 2017-18. The Southern Word team is interested in introducing this program to urban, suburban, or rural schools with a focus on east Tennessee. Additionally, Southern Word is seeking to partner with schools willing to share the cost of the program so that they may stretch these dollars to reach the most Tennessee youth, but all interested schools are encouraged to reach out to them.
About the Poetry Residency
By placing inspirational writer mentors in classrooms to facilitate residencies, Southern Word creates relevant connections between what students are learning in class and their own experiences, identities, and futures. Southern Word seeks to develop powerful communicators, providing the tools necessary to increase the ability of students to write, listen, and speak.
The poetry residency focuses on curriculum-based lessons that reinforce classroom learning objectives and academic standards. Tennessee English language arts standards are addressed as students identify elements of poetry through contemporary poems, word palettes, and image lists. Students are led through the writing process as they brainstorm, pre-write, edit, finalize, and perform their own poetry. Students use literary devices such as similes, metaphors, concrete detail, and imagery to bring power to their own experiences and stories. Participants gain confidence in themselves as writers, communicators, and speakers.
Additionally, as students write and share their personal experiences, empathy within the classroom increases, new student-to-student and student-to-teacher bonds are formed, and participants emerge with a new understanding of their community. Students participating in spoken word programs report improvement in their reading and writing skills, increased self‐confidence, and a new sense of community among their peers and teachers. Educators report a clear rise in interest among students, a more youth‐driven learning environment, and evidence of greater social and academic confidence among students.
The standard curriculum takes between 3 and 5 hours to complete (two to three 90-minute block classes or three to five 50-minute periods) with each classroom, ending in an open mic or poetry slam on the last day. Southern Word usually works with a school between two to seven days. For a number of schools, the spoken word residency has become an annual unit reaching an entire grade level and ending in a school-wide poetry slam. Southern Word can tailor the program based on the needs and desires of specific schools and teachers.
To learn more about bringing the Southern Word poetry residency program to your school, please contact Southern Word’s Executive Director Benjamin Smith at (615) 686-5456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Southern Word
Southern Word has become one of the leading spoken word poetry youth development and education organizations in the nation and has been placing writer mentors in Tennessee classrooms as a teacher resource since 2008. Southern Word worked with 5,100 students in 42 schools in eight counties in 2016–17. They serve elementary through college classrooms in urban, rural, and suburban schools. Learn more at www.southernword.org.