Instagram Poetry

This program was how I took a stab at using STEM for teens. I haven’t had a lot of success getting teens into my library, so I tried something different by offering a series on an ongoing subject. Since I’m passionate about writing and remember how much it meant to me as a teen (SO MUCH FAN FICTION), I focused on writing as our topic for now.

The first program in the series was Instagram Poetry. In an effort to get a few more teens, I contacted a middle school English teacher that I have a good relationship with. I shared the information, took some bookmark-y advertisements to her, and reminded her as the time drew near. Since her three classes had a visit to the library the week before, I had a chance to push the program again, this time directly to the students.

I had only one teen come out for the program, and, against all odds, her mom found the program listed in the newspaper. Thankfully, I had a very sweet teen volunteer that night, and I asked her to join us so my participant wouldn’t feel alone. They were fabulous.

To open up a discussion about poetry, I first played some Youtube clips of clean performances from Def Jam Poetry. First, I showed a poem by Taylor Mali called “Totally, Like Whatever” because it was written by a teacher and has the quality of a speech as he rants against the way teenagers often speak. Next, I showed one by Steve Colman called “I Wanna Hear a Poem” because it has more flow, wordplay, and stands out as having definite poetic qualities. Last, I showed one written and performed by a teenager, Sarah Kay, called “Hands,” because her style is somewhere in the middle.

After we watched each we paused to discuss them for a minute. Did it seem like a poem or were they just talking really fast? What makes something sound like a poem when it’s being performed? What can poems be about?  How would they feel about trying to memorize all those words and performing them?

For the second half of the program, we were actually making poems using the spine labels of books. I snagged this idea off of Teen Librarian Toolbox. You just line up book spines with interesting titles in an order that creates a poem. I had an example stack of books that I showed them and then I explained that they could look around the library to make their own, write down the titles, and bring back the books so that we could take pictures of our poems. That last bit got lost in translation, but they came back with some great poems. If I’d really wanted to push the use of the iPads for their cameras and access to Instagram, I would have taken away the sheets for writing down the titles. Then they would have to take pictures of their book stacks. I really didn’t mind either way, though. The most important thing to me was seeing them using their noodles, getting to know each other, and practicing sharing their work in a very warm, accepting setting. The girls were so nice to each other about their poems.


Next up, we’re attempting to make comic strips using the iPads and that’s next week.

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