SPOKEN WORDFINDING AND CULTIVATING UNIQUE VOICES
Reading, Writing And Performing Poetry
Build communication skills…
through reading, writing and performing poetry on topics relevant to kids’ experiences.
to find and cultivate their unique voices for personal growth and civic engagement.
by creating a safe place for sharing personal stories and cultural understanding.
Connect to the larger world…
of Spoken Word through mentorship, showcases, and competitions.
CREATING ARTICULATE, ENGAGED YOUNG PEOPLE
Launched in Fall 2015, Spoken Word is a powerful and effective medium for fostering creativity and self-expression in young people.
Through both in-school residencies and extracurricular clubs, students learn to write and revise poems that reflect their own unique experiences, interests, and opinions. They then have opportunities to share their poetry in safe and supportive space.
Kids learn to collaborate creatively and to respond to each other’s work in a thoughtful and constructive manner.
The program consists of 3 main components:
- teacher professional development for 7th grade English Language Arts teachers at Brooks and Julian Middle Schools, as well as two Spoken Word club sponsors at each middle school
- week-long classroom residencies serving all 6th & 7th grade English Language Arts classes
- an extracurricular club open to all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders
We bring in teaching artists to co-facilitate our residencies and clubs. We partner with Oak Park River Forest High School’s stellar Spoken Word program, and high school students mentor our middle school Spoken Word club members. This year, we will attend the Louder Than A Bomb slam as audience members, perform at various community locales, and host a Julian vs. Brooks slam at the Oak Park School of Rock.
- brings in teaching artists to mentor students
- engages all students with topics relevant to their personal experiences
- creates a strong classroom and school community
- helps students find their unique voices and connects them to the wider world
District 97 Parent
“The Spoken Word program spearheaded by OPEF makes me wish I was a 7th grader….I feel like my kid is attending a boutique middle school.”
District 97 Student
“I liked how we got to speak in front of people and become more comfortable in front of an audience.”
Spoken Word Teaching Artist
“This art form is one that really gives these kids a voice—to be able to stand up and say ‘who I am.’ They don’t have the space to do that at this age.”
Spoken Word News
OPEF Spoken Word students shook the house at the School of Rock with their raw honesty and powerful words last week. The poetry slam, titled Respect the Mic, fostered creativity and self-expression while giving kids the opportunity to speak about their...
'Allowing teachers to see students for who they really are’ Buying a ticket to OPEF’s re-invented fundraiser not only allows you to support amazing enrichment programs in Oak Park schools, it also gives you a chance to celebrate an influential teacher who does so...
Spoken Word teaching artist Isaiah Makar celebrated his birthday with a very special event, the first-ever Julian Middle School 6th Grade Poetry Slam. A participant from each class was chosen by their peers and presented their work to the entire 6th grade...
“WE CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOU”
$250 Sponsors a week-long residency of a Spoken Word visiting artist.
ARTS COORDINATOR (FOR SPOKEN WORD & ART START)
Joel earned his MA in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BFA from Murray State University. Joel has experience teaching in museum & community art settings, and was instrumental in expanding public programming as well as advancing an award-winning fellowship programs for teachers. Joel has served as the Arts Coordinator for Art Start & Spoken Word since 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF OPEF'S SPOKEN WORD PROGRAM?
In January 2015, Spoken Word was selected through our first Call for Ideas process in six years. The “Call” brought in 78 excellent ideas plus some great feedback from nearly 1,000 of our middle schoolers. The OPEF staff and Board – made up of community members, parents, teachers, and District 97 leaders – carefully reviewed all of the ideas. Each of the proposals submitted was subjected to “blind reviews,” that is, submitters’ names and/or organizations were deleted and every proposal was scored by each participant across seven criteria. Then the top-rated ideas were discussed extensively and matched against the overall mission of OPEF until the group determined a clear winner: SPOKEN WORD.
Seed funding for the launch of Spoken Word was provided by the Peter Traczyk Innovation Fund.
WHO CAN JOIN THE OPEF SPOKEN WORD CLUB?
HOW WILL YOU RECRUIT STUDENTS FOR THE CLUBS?
All 6th and 7th graders participate in a week-long Spoken Word residency in their Language Arts class during the fall, which culminates with a grade-wide poetry slam. Information about the club will be shared during both the residency and the slam. Additionally, Language Arts teachers have been asked to help identify students who might excel as Spoken Word Club members.
WILL STUDENTS IN THE CLUB HAVE TO PERFORM THEIR POEMS OUT LOUD?
Spoken Word is about fostering creativity, self-expression, and a sense of community. Students will be coached and guided as poets and performers, but no one will be forced to perform. However, don’t be surprised if some of the quietest students end up displaying the strongest voices on stage! Our stellar teaching artists and club sponsors have a way of encouraging young people to speak up and speak out.