- Sponsorship -

Speaking Poetry Helps Students Share their Hearts

Middle School Workshop Encourages Self-Expression

Katie Mitchell could have picked from a range of interesting topics to share with classmates, but she choose the one closest to her heart.

The Crossroads Middle School eighth-grader picked tragedy.

As part of a spoken-word poetry workshop held at the school, Katie’s topic included how to forge ahead following the deaths of two uncles and an aunt due to strokes in the last several months. She wrote about family and overcoming pain and learning that life goes on.

“It was really hard,”said Katie, a member of the school’s language arts class who read their works before an enthusiastic assembly of their peers. “But it just came. There were some tears, but I got through it.”

Davis Hooker is one of nearly two dozen Crossroads Middle School students who recently read their spoken-word poetry

That describes many of the nearly two dozen students who were part of a three-day workshop conducted by The Diatribe, a spoken-word poetry group that works in schools to encourage student awareness and self-expression.

The Crossroads students were first asked to pick two topics, work in small groups to hone their work, and then present it to classmates during an assembly. The workshop aimed to not only help students tackle a new type of writing, but also learn to share tough topics before their peers. Topics students wrote about included bullying, homosexuality, politics, masking feelings, family, love and loss, and conflictwith parents.

By writing about their deepest fears and concerns, the students learn empowerment, said The Diatribe’s Rachel Gleason, a poet and musician whose work often ties together religious symbolism with vivid imagery and wordplay.

‘I think the writing can help them heal, bring them closer together.’
— Kathy Vogel, English teacher

“You combine live arts and performance,” Gleason said of the students’ poetry. “Kids need a safe space and this is one way for them to gain power – talking to other students. They empower themselves by talking about these things.”

Sharing Trials Through Poetry

Started in 2013, The Diatribe currently works with only a handful of schools, but hopes to increase that number to between 20 and 30 schools by spring.

Gleason said middle school students are the ideal age for the project. They’ve lived long enough to recognize life’s challenging path, but haven’t yet shut down in terms of expressing feelings like many older students, she said.

John Dykstra and other students were encouraged to share their feelings in verse

“More (middle schoolers) are willing to open up,” she said. “High school kids can be more withdrawn, a wall is put up. What we try to do isn’t just about writing, it’s other learning to support one another. It’s breaking through to talk about things you don’t normally talk about.”

Crossroads English teacher Kathy Vogel said mastering spoken-word poetry benefits students’ writing skills, but also teaches them that their peers are experiencing the same tribulations they deal with.

“I think the writing can help them heal, bring them closer together,” Vogel said. “But most importantly it shows them that their voice can matter. Words can be said in a powerful way.”

Language arts teacher Benson Mitchell said the ability of students to grasp the significance of developing their own voice — both in writing and in presenting their work — is critical.

“Middle school is a transitional stage, so you are busy trying to develop your own voice,” Mitchell said. “I think students learn that they are all the same, but that they’re not alone.”


The Diatribe

Poetry Groups Inspires Students to Mix Words, Share Experience

Crossroads Middle School

- Sponsorship -


District welcomes new administrators, ready to ‘lead through uncharted waters’

New administrators share their thoughts on starting their posts during a pandemic...

Teacher and coach applies lessons in classroom and on field

New Kelloggsville head football coach Brandon Branch also teaches science and math at the high school and looks to bring academics and athletics together whenever he can...

Two high schools, newly renovated, await return of students

Two major renovation projects at Ottawa Hills and Union high schools are part of a 30-year, $175 million school improvement bond approved November 2015 with the majority, $155 million, earmarked for construction...

Avid reader, Petoskey-stone hunter, lover of great outdoors

Melanie Hoeksema is the new Ada Elementary principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Principal...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Making the best of it

Students, parents, teachers and others share their feelings about the start of this unprecedented school year...

Marching on

The plan is to continue regular rehearsals and to host a number of community events, to be determined...

Virtual career exploration a hit with students

The district helped shape the online program, which is now being used to varying degrees by a handful of area schools...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU