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Salisbury High English class stages a ‘Jazzy Cafe’

By Leigha Hougland and Kaitlyn Cuevas
Salisbury Post
Salisbury High English teacher Sakinah Shakoor wanted to give her Honors English 2 students the opportunity to express themselves through poetry ó and she wanted to make the experience memorable.
By decorating the school’s media center with the help of media specialist Crystal Morgan, Shakoor’s sophomore students set the mood for their poetry reading April 16. On the walls were oversized musical notes and a large sign reading “Jazzy Cafe.”
Band director Steve Sigmon and his jazz band were also present to play the role of the cafe’s house band. As the visiting classes entered the cafe during first period, they were greeted with melodic music as well as hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a menu.
As Shakoor’s students read their poems, the jazz band accompanied them with smooth music. All of the poems read had been written by the students as part of the poetry unit in their class.
Each student read at least one of their poems that met one of seven different poetry structures: ballad, lyric, haiku, tanka, narrative, elegy or sonnet. Poetry readers included Tony Morow, Isaiah Whitaker, Edward Wright, Karen Rojas, Imon Wilson, Makeela Clodfelter, Dominique Bratcher, Jatara Propst, Jeremy Canzator and Nakia Daniels.
Unlucky boyfriends, runaway fathers, loving grandmothers, the emptiness of hunger and the highs and lows of being in love were some of the subjects that Shakoor’s students wrote about in their poems. Shakoor recited her own poem by heart. She dedicated it to her brother.
After each reading, “snaps” were given and the visiting English classes were asked to look at the descriptions of each style of poetry, located on their cafe menu, and guess which style had just been read.
This gave the other classes the opportunity to refine their knowledge of poetry as well as learn the definitions of new types of poetry.
The Jazzy Cafe is a project that Shakoor does every year, but this year it was bigger through the collaboration with the media center and the jazz band. That the project encompassed three different curriculum areas prompted Morgan to say that it was “collaboration at its best.”
Along with researching poetry at home, students received a great deal of help from the resources Morgan was able to pull from the media center for each type of poetry.
The students had a lot of fun with the project.
Chester Robinson called the poetry reading a “colorful experience,” while Nakia Daniels shared that she was happy to “let it out.”
Many admitted that they were nervous about expressing their emotions to so many peers, but they all agreed that poetry was the best outlet to allow them to share their feelings.
For English 2 classes, the subject area is world literature.
Shakoor emphasized how amazing it is to see students connect with poems from hundreds of years ago.
Studying world literature “eliminates stereotypes of literature,” Shakoor said.
The students learned that you can connect with people from all kinds of places and times through literature, especially poetry.
A few of the main poets that Shakoor’s class studied were Roman lyricist Catullus, Greek lyricist Sappho, Islamic elegy writer Al-khansa, and William Shakespeare.
Shakoor decided to do the poetry reading as a way for students to boost confidence.
“It shows students that what they have to say is important,” she said.
She thinks it is essential for her students to have the opportunity to share work that they are proud of and to show them the lesson that “you are your own self-esteem booster; you don’t have to go to anyone else.”
The poetry reading is always a positive experience for Shakoor and her students. She hopes to continue doing this project every year and was excited that everyone was so supportive.

Salisbury High seniors Leigha Hougland and Kaitlyn Cuevas are interns at the Post.

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