Creating a Poetry Café!
A Poetry Cafe allows scholars to share the work they have done, not only with their classmates and teachers, but also with the special guests that they invite. These invited guests can be asked to join in the fun by reading their own favorite poems aloud. During the Poetry Café the scholar-poets can read aloud some of the poems they created and/or read one favorite poem by an author that they studied during reading workshop.
Scholar Preparation for the Poetry Café
The poems created by individual scholars serve as the basis of poems selected for sharing at the Poetry Café. They will also need practice reading them aloud!
Teacher Preparation for the Poetry Café
Share your intentions with the facility and education supervisor at your site, as well as the other teachers and staff members you work with. Enlist their assistance!
Invite Guests to the Event
A few weeks before the Poetry Cafe allow scholars to send an invitation to parents and/or staff members they wish to invite, along with a slip for them to RSVP. This will help you accommodate the guests.
Set Up the Poetry Café
Poetry Café Location: Before planning the event, you will need to determine where in your school would be the best place to set up a café. A classroom may not be large enough to accommodate all of the guests, but you also do not want to pick a place (such as a gymnasium or cafeteria) that is so large that it loses the coziness of a crowded coffee shop.
Poetry Café Stage or Speaking Area: You can create a speaking area by defining a space within the Poetry Café. An area with a microphone stand, stool, and an interesting lamp adds to the café feel.
Poetry Café Space: To make guests feel like they are truly in a small coffee shop, you can use TV trays as opposed to larger tables. TV trays are small and can be placed close together to help create the café feeling. It is important that the audience is close to the readers, and tables (the smaller the better) could work just as well. Cover the tables with black plastic tablecloths and place two or three chairs around them.
Poetry Café Mood: Consider using fewer bright lights within your Poetry Café, and instead use the light from a lamp placed on the stage and battery-powered candles on each table.
Poetry Café Food and Drinks: Invite fellow teachers and staff members to volunteer to make treats to serve. Coffee can also be served for the adults and juices for the scholars. Consider placing someone in charge of the food and drink station to assist guests.
Poetry Café Program: Create programs for your Poetry Café! This should list the scholars’ names as well as the poem(s) they will be performing. During the day of the Poetry Café, place programs on tables.
Poetry Café Signs or Banners: To make your cafe look inviting, add a festive banner above the stage and even an "Open Mic Night" sign on an easel near the stage. Maybe you can enlist corectional staff to assist your poets in creating banners on their residential units.
Poetry Café Invitation: Invite adults who work in teh facility, family and other community members! Clink the link below to download a sample invitation. Please customize it and make it your own!
Conduct the Poetry Café
Arrival: As scholars and guests first arrive at the Poetry Cafe, have some jazz playing in the background. Consider having scholars in charge of helping guests find their seats, and are encourage them to partake of the food and freshly brewed coffee. As scholars enter, they should retrieve their anthologies or other poetic works and take a seat in a designated area beside the stage.
Sharing Poetic Works: Each scholar’s name should be called and the title of their poem announced before they take the stage. Scholars then take their place on the stage, and read their poem aloud from their anthology/paper. Instead of clapping at the end of each poem, guests could be asked to snap their fingers! Each student could read two original poems and one poem by an author he or she studied during the poetry unit, or any one of those depending on the size of your group.
Before any of the scholars read their poems, one scholar should inform the audience of the poetic devices (learned during the unit) that they should listen for while the poem is being read aloud. A "Poetic Devices Table Card” could be placed on tables so that the guests know the name and meaning of each poetic device (metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, repetition, onomatopoeia, imagery, rhyme scheme, and any others you may have decided to add to your unit).
Throughout the scholar readings have "open mic" breaks where guests can read aloud their own poems or read a poem from a favorite author or book!
The picture above is a created Poetry Café space inside of a school.
Tables & Seating: TV trays covered with black plastic tablecloths, folding chairs, fake tea light candles, Poetry Café programs, and a standing Poetic Devices Table Card for audience reference.
Poetry Café Stage/Speaking Area: A stool and microphone on a stand are located in the speaking area. The area pictured also contains a karaoke-style speaker, a standing lamp, and an “Open Mic Night” sign on a stand. Behind the stage area are two large black tablecloths affixed to the wall to recreate stage curtains.