ESHS Students "Get Lit"

El Segundo High School Students “Get Lit” 

“Words Ignite” Poetry Slam Competition Intrigues ESHS students

El Segundo, CA – January 7, 2013 – El Segundo High School students have been handed the rare opportunity to join a citywide poetry competition pitting their talents against students from all over Los Angeles County.   For the past seven years, the Get Lit program has been reaching out to students to engage them in the art of poetry while affording students the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

Mrs. Jennifer Hedayat, English teacher at ESHS, was looking for something different to engage her students – particularly her seniors.  “I’ve taught Senior English long enough to know that the second semester of senior year is very difficult to keep students in the ‘present,’” she muses.  “They are ready to move on, yet must endure one last semester of English course work; this competition will be an excellent way to bring relevance to their lives through creative writing.”

Already immersed in a wave of research surrounding the newly adopted Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Hedayat instantly made the connection between the new standards’ focus on real world applications such as speaking and listening, and the possibilities of this poetry competition.  “What could be more ‘real world’ than asking students to create their own poetry, perform it, then take their poetry into a professional performance arena in front of hundreds or thousands of strangers and pull it off?” she wondered.

Get Lit is a well-regarded non-profit is in its seventh year of hooking LA teens into the power of poetry by fusing “classic poetry with contemporary spoken word performance techniques to boost literacy, foster cultural understanding, and encourage creative self-expression.”

The curriculum is a natural for senior English, Hedayat explains.  “We already study an epic poem in Beowulf, so students have been introduced to the nuts-and-bolts of poetry.  Where Get Lit jumps off and is relevant to students is they get to claim one poem for their very own.  I start by reading about 50 very famous poems to the class.  When any particular student feels that a poem ‘sings’ or ‘speaks’ to them, they get to claim that poem.  Then they memorize the poem and internalize its message or theme.  The fun part is they then get to write a response to the poem in their own words in poetic form.  This allows the writers to create a conversation between the poet and themselves on a very personal level.  There are classroom level competitions, then we’ll hopefully have an assembly competition here at the high school, then students move on to a mini-slam where they compete at Los Angeles Theatre Company before going to the semi-finals and the finals at the Orpheum theatre downtown Los Angeles.  These kids will be judged by a panel of professional artists – whoever wins is really the ‘best of the best.’”

Many of the workshop leaders for Get Lit are huge household names:  Tim Robbins, Helen Mirren, Carol Muske-Dukes, Robert Pinsky, David Mamet, Aimee Mann, the list goes on and on.

Hedayat attended a workshop for teachers interested in entering their students into the competition.  “Fundraising will be a part of this, but I think it’s extremely worth it,” Hedayat said.  “The fundraising is to help perpetuate the program.  Corporate sponsors are involved but Get Lit asks each team to fundraise to ensure students have ownership in the program.  Get Lit also helps align us with sponsors so we don’t have to do the fundraising all by ourselves.”

What happens if students don’t raise enough funds to participate?  “The organization will make sure every high school that shows a good faith effort at fundraising is sponsored and allowed to participate,” Hedayat assures.

“This is a big deal for our kids on every level,” Hedayat continues.  “Get Lit allows us the use of their poetry curriculum for our entire English department for this semester, which is fully aligned with the Common Core.  I am so excited to see and hear what my students create in their own voices, how they perform, how they hook into the material. They won’t realize they are learning a great deal because it will be fun and engaging. It’s going to be a fascinating adventure – hopefully ending with one of our students performing at the Orpheum April 26 and 27, 2013.”  For more information, to donate or help fundraise please contact Jennifer Hedayat at jhedayat@esusd.k12.ca.us or call her at 310.615.2662 x 360.