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Fourth-grade slam poets well versed 

‘I can’t just keep it to myself’

Coit Creative Arts Academy fourth-graders perform original poems in their end-of-unit poetry slam

Grand Rapids — Coit Creative Arts Academy fourth-graders know how to use poetic devices to take their poems to the next level. 

Braylin Herron-Gipson said he used “onomatopoeia” — words that imitate or suggest the sound they describe — in his poem “The Stars.” 

“I learned in class how to use animal sounds, like using different animal sounds from night time,” he said. 

During Coit’s first fourth-grade poetry slam featuring students from Melinda Sheldon and Abeni Wimbush classes, Braylin read his poem: 

The stars shine in the night sky. Hoot hoot, the owls are singing in the night. The stars shine in different colors, red, blue or even white.” 

Braylin said he also learned about similes, metaphors and how “you can add different things into one poem.” 

“For my poem, I picked the stars because I know so much about space and that’s why I added stars,” he said. “I can’t just keep it to myself; I have to bring it out.” 

Wimbush said as an International Baccalaureate school, poetry is one of the fourth grade units of study. 

“A visit from The Diatribe kicked off our unit,” she said. “The teaching artists taught our students about writing and performing poetry.”

Sheldon added: “This is the first one we’ve ever done, and we’re hoping for many more years of poetry slams.” 

The fourth-graders eventually used the performance skills they learned from The Diatribe to perform in their classroom poetry slam.  

Fourth-grader Iris Horton said she was excited to perform her poem “Young Pressure” because it was just like getting up on stage to perform in a musical.

“I was inspired by one of Amanda Gorman’s poems we read in class and was going through a lot of pressure lately, so I wanted to write a poem about it,” she said. “If you put a bunch of pressure on kids, they’re going to start picturing their world from that point of view.” 

Iris added that she learned poems don’t have to rhyme and the words are like writing lyrics to a song. 

“I knew that poems can be completely abstract … so I wrote it like I could turn it into a song, because I like writing songs,” she said. 

Fourth-grader Annabelle Ball said she found her poetic inspiration from her teacher, Ms. Sheldon. 

“Every year she’s been here, she writes a poem about her students and it inspired me to write a poem about who I was, the real me,” Annabelle explained. “When I started writing about me, it all came to me and I put it in a poem.” 

Read more from Grand Rapids: 
An arts school takes the stage
Montessori educator talks passion, challenges & upsides of profession

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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