Sunday, July 15, 2018

Black poetry, high school students, and audio recordings


Last week, I got the chance to put into practice some of the concepts concerning sound that I was studying related to audio recordings of poetry. I worked on language arts activities in East St. Louis with two groups of high school students from Madison and Cahokia -- small towns in southern Illinois. By highlighting features such as volume, pitch, tempo, and dramatic pauses, we studied individual compositions, and at the same time, we spent worked on sharpening our communication skills.

We listened to and read (in that order) to works by 6 poets and rappers:
• "A Song in the Front Yard" by Gwendolyn Brooks
• "RhythmBlues" by Amiri Baraka
• "won't you celebrate with me" by Lucille Clifton
• "Sporting Life" by Adrian Matejka
• "Lost Ones" by Lauryn Hill
• Verse from "Triumph" by Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang Clan
On Monday, we first spent some time talking and thinking about the kinds of speakers we enjoy and value. Next, we used audio devices to listen to the 6 pieces and offer initial impressions. During the rest of the week, we re-read and produced audio recordings of us reading the poems and raps.

Recording, listening, and then re-recording gave the students opportunities to think about ways to study and improve their delivery styles. The students were initially amused to hear the playback of audio recordings of themselves reading (i.e. "uhhh, I hate my voice"). Eventually, they began to listen closer to how they sounded and made adjustments and improvements for subsequent recordings.

For years now, revision and edits in my college classes have focused on writing. For the students I worked with last week however, revision was about improving vocal variety.

Language arts activities with high school students

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