This fall, all 7th graders are participating in Spoken Word, the Oak Park Education Foundation’s new program. The Spoken Word Club at Julian will be open to all 6th-8th grade students, and will launch in December.

Click on slideshow below to see more photos.
Julian Spoken Word

Thanks to Inga Simitz, OPEF parent link at Julian, who reported from Mrs. Chu’s 7th grade class and took photos of the young poets in action:


We welcomed the Oak Park Education Foundation’s Spoken Word into Julian for the first time to Mrs. Chu’ 7th grade language arts class.  Students became poets for a week.  

Over the course of the week, kids were shown videos of poems written by students called ‘Where I am From.’  After the video poems, Ms. Ito Osaigbovo (Ms. O) facilitated discussion to describe what they liked and asked what they learned about the person from the poem.  She then asked kids to think about how they would explain where they are from without saying the city or state they live in or have lived in.

The kids were asked to write the same type of poem.  As the week unfolded, Mrs. Chu explained how writing a poem about where you are from is challenging and that students should share as much as they feel comfortable sharing.  She told the kids that it is okay to keep some things to themselves.  Ms. O shared stories about her family and her parents to show that she can be vulnerable, too.  Ms. O and Mrs. Chu created a safe environment in class and engaged students with supportive comments and by working with them one-on-one.

As I observed students working on their rubric to help develop their poem, I saw smiles and reflective thinking as they recalled their childhood and family memories. Kids took the exercise seriously. When asked how they liked the writing, they said, “I am an emotional person.  This is difficult.” and “You have to dig deep.”

On presentation day, there were as many as 10 students volunteering to present their poems.  Ms. O taught the format of an Open Mic and the steps needed to participate. She gave them the good advice of “Match your emotion with your delivery. Say it how you feel it.”

Kids used poetry devices like extended metaphor and rhyming in their writing. They talked about family traditions with pride.  I come from “potato crazed ancestors.” I heard kids say things like “I never knew that about you” to their friends giving the presentation. As the students gained a better understanding of their peers and friends, I believe they gained a respect for each other’s differences. This shift in the classroom dynamics was amazing to watch.

In a special moment, after one student presenter finished, another student stood up and gave him a hug and both had huge smiles. I am not sure how well they knew one another or how close they are outside of class, but this process created a stronger connection.  

The exercise expanded beyond poetry writing. Mrs. Chu offered the kids the chance to create their own video poems. The classes compiled and sequenced photos of their choice the following week. They worked with Brooke Brennan, the data and technology instructional coach at Julian, to create the videos using iMovie. The students will publish their videos on YouTube using their OP97 student accounts, giving them the opportunity to share their voices (a priority in the 7th grade Language Arts curriculum). The process also will teach kids about digital citizenship and creating positive digital footprints. QR codes that link directly to each student’s video will be displayed along the main hallway on the first floor.

I ran into a student from Mrs. Chu’s class outside of school and asked what she thought about the Spoken Word. She said, “It is my favorite class. I like writing poems.”