Last year I stumbled across an amazing show on HBO called “Brave New Voices.” BNV is an ongoing spoken word event created by Youth Speaks. The HBO show gives you an inside look at this national youth competition. The show is highly engaging and the performers take the audience through a wide range of emotions. Teenagers from all over the country write and perform poetry. This project gives our youth a voice and a platform to share it. The project fosters creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking amongst students. Let’s use it!
First, I’d like to give you a visual so here is one of my favorite performances. It is a favorite because I think the way these two students intertwine themselves is mesmerizing and the topic makes me smile.
This show is inspiring to me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we can use it as a teaching tool to inspire middle and high schoolers. Some of the poetry is inappropriate for middle schoolers, and some are even inappropriate for high schoolers so using this as a teaching tool requires a little bit of pre-reading/pre-watching. Many of the pieces are about controversial topics so it is important to choose the ones that best suite your needs. That being said, many of the pieces are important even though they are difficult to watch, so let’s keep an open mind.
Why Use Brave New Voices As a Teaching Tool
- Kids get inspired by watching their peers perform
- The students on this show approach difficult subject matter with a fresh eye that can lead to juicy discussions in your classroom
- The performances will teach your students that writing can make you get the chills
How to Teach Using Brave New Voices As a Teaching Tool
- Show a video of a performance before writing to get inspired.
- Photocopy or project the words to a poem and then show students the video performance. Compare the two are forms.
- Use these videos to come up with interesting writing topics.
- Check out the incredible HBO/Brave New Voices website. It as a great resource that shares videos, features students and even offers the text version of some of the most creative performances (See below.)
If you fall in love with BNV like I did, and want to use it to teach your students…you might want to consider purchasing the DVD’s. They offer a variety of pieces to choose from so you can find the best fit for your students.
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I love the piece at the top of this post because it is fun. Many of the poems performed on BNV are bold, emotional and even difficult to watch at times but all of them speak volumes. Here are my two other favorites:
Favorite Color by Jay Davis, 16 Years Old
This young poet gives me chills and evokes emotion that I didn’t realize existed. Her piece is heart-wrenching yet eloquent, and all I can think about when I watch her how intimidated I might be if I sat next to her in high school English. She is amazing.
Love Letter to Albuquerque Public Schools by Miguel Figueroa, Reed Bobroff, Olivia Gatwood, and Khalid Binsunni
I’d like to end with this…I went back and forth thinking about whether or not to include this link on EdGeeks. It is controversial in nature and uses language that is not be appropriate for all viewers…but it was the most inspiring piece to me. It really made me think about classrooms around our country today. In many ways it feels inspirational to hear students who will not stand for being told to shed pieces of themselves, particularly their creativity. Thank you to Team New Mexico for making me stop and think…and for bringing a little controversy to the table.