Since its introduction in the 1980s, slam poetry has been inspiring audiences of all kinds. It’s the perfect way to help your students see that not all poetry is stuffy, academic, or too hard to understand. Use these slam poetry examples with your students, and then encourage them to try writing and performing their own poems!
New to slam poetry? Learn all about slam poetry here. Also, note that slam poems often address heavy political or social topics. Always view videos in advance to make sure they’re appropriate for your audience.
When your students tell you that only adults can write poems, prove them them wrong with these terrific examples of slam poetry by kids just like them. Some are on lighter subjects, terrific for introducing the concept to little ones. Others tackle the social injustices and political subjects that slam poetry is known for.
Saverio doesn’t just love poems—he is a poem. His clever use of language and poetry terms reminds students that they can find themselves in any literature genre or style. They just have to look.
Slam poetry truly comes to life when you hear it out loud. Riya’s simple poem about soccer abounds with energy through her delivery and excitement.
Here’s another example of how delivery sets slam poems apart from the rest. These young poets share their thoughts on cats in a way that will make you laugh … and make you think. They subvert expectations, which is what good art is all about.
This brief but inspiring poem from 11-year-old Ruben captures one child’s life in a few short verses. This is a great way to encourage your students to write their own slam poem, using the phrase “Where I’m From.”
Here’s a topic so many kids can relate to: the challenges of math class. The rhyme and rhythm here are great, and the words sum up what lots of this young poet’s peers are thinking every day.
Mel and Alana know that beauty comes in so many different forms, and their poem celebrates them all. Their pop culture references help kids connect with the topic, while their straightforward delivery draws the audience in from the start.
When you’re a teen, you think a lot about growing up. Sometimes you feel so much older and long for childhood. Other times, you feel so young, too young, and wish for more. Anthony’s slam poem captures all these feelings in a way anyone can relate to.
Seventh grader Olivia wrote and performed this poem for a class project. Her central theme, “Why am I not good enough?” asks a universal question that so many teens grapple with every day.
Sixteen-year-old Chris Loos uses his slam poem to express what it feels like to live with ADHD, OCD, and other “mental disorders.” This powerful piece will speak directly to other students like him. Plus, it will open the minds of those who can’t imagine what it feels like to live this way every day.
These kids are tired of being labeled, stereotyped, and overgeneralized, especially when it comes to their use of technology. Their performance celebrates the advantages they feel technology is giving their generation, and encourages adults to do the same.
“They tell me I’m not Mexican,” Leticia says. But her poem spells out all the ways she embraces and values her background and culture. Regardless of your students’ ethnicities, they’ll see themselves in this search for identity.
Amina and Hannah come from different religions and cultures, but their poem celebrates the common ground they share. It’s full of both despair and hope, making connections that unite them.
Anger, despair, and fear pour out through the words in this powerful performance. Belissa, Rhiannon, and Zariya ask important questions about American values with an intensity that draws in every viewer. This one is written and performed by kids, but it addresses adult-level topics.
Like many slam poems, Royce’s piece attacks a social and political subject: Black Lives Matter. Viewers feel his anger and fear through his words and his delivery.
Levi gave himself a black eye trying to do a somersault. For days, people told him he should make up a better story, like being in a bar fight. He uses his slam poem to fight back against toxic masculinity. (Some PG-13 language.)
These slam poems include award winners and those by famous poets. The topics are often challenging and the language intense, so some of these might be best saved for teens in high school lit classes.
OK, first things first: This isn’t exactly slam poetry. Slam poetry doesn’t include music made with instruments. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original performance of the opening number of the smash musical Hamilton was obviously inspired by slam poetry. Note that there’s very little singing—it’s all about the rhyme, rhythm, and flow of the words. You could remove the music, and the impact would be very much the same.
Marc Kelly Smith is often considered the founder of the slam poetry movement. Watch him perform one of his most well-known poems, a thought-provoking piece about whether a father’s coat really fits his son.
Harry Baker’s slam poetry uses puns and humor to tell poignant stories. In this one, prime number 59 stops yearning after perfect 60 and falls in love with 61, a prime example of a love story.
Alex Yang knows what it feels like to be lumped together, to have his individuality stripped away. He shares those feelings and experiences in this intense slam poem.
Sarah Kay is a well-known poet, sometimes performing with her partner, Phil Kaye (no relation). In this work, she calls herself the most unreliable of narrators, noting that she constantly lies to herself. “I am the center of my own dramatic universe,” she notes. What teen can’t relate to that?
Shane’s captivating poem about bullying took the world by storm. He edited his original TED Talk performance video to use in school talks. (If you’d like to see the whole thing, find it here.)
Taylor Mali wonders when we stopped speaking with conviction and turned everything into a question. Your students will definitely recognize themselves in the speech patterns of this poem, and it might just change the way they think—and talk. (Mali is a former classroom teacher, by the way, and educators will connect with his poem, What Teachers Make.)
What starts out as a list of facts turns into a deeper look at identity. Rudy Francisco’s poems are powerful but relatable, and many of them are great for the classroom.
Before he starts his poem, Nkosi Nkululeko has a few thoughts to share. And then a few more. And a few more after that …
If your students still aren’t sure about slam poetry, remind them about Brandon Leake, who ultimately won the 2020 season of America’s Got Talent with his incredible compositions. Here’s his initial audition, which even Simon Cowell couldn’t criticize.
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