Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)


Vajra Watson founded SAYS: Sacramento Area Youth Speaks to give young people a voice through hip hop and spoken word. “We underestimate young people,” Vajra says. "They're ready to grab the mic. Are we ready to listen?"

This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies and you can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.

  • Self-awareness: Poetry and spoken word are ways to build self-awareness in youth.

  • Social awareness: Vajra helps students become aware of social justice issues through the SAYS program.

  • Relationship skills: Vajra Watson fosters positive student relationships as the students work together to write poems.

  • Responsible Decision-making: Students make choices about the message they want to share in their writing.

1. Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):

  • Do you believe that adults underestimate young people? If so, can you give an example?
  • Do you feel your voice gets heard in your classes? Why or why not?
  • What might it mean to young people to have a chance to speak in public, either sharing poetry or other kinds of written or spoken word?

2.  After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):

  • What do they mean by the idea that spoken word is about resistance? Did you see any examples in the film?
  • What is the history of spoken word and performance poetry that came from West Africa? How have you witnessed it in the United States?
  • How does rap music and hip hop embody the tradition of protest?
  • Why does Vajra Watson say that poetry creates positivity for her and the students?
  • What kinds of mentors did you see in the film? What did they do? Do you have a mentor or older role model who inspires you?

Extension Activities

1. Do the activity that students did in the film:

  • Write acceptance in the center of the  board.
  • Have the students brainstorm words that express the meaning of acceptance and write them around the word on the board.
  • Have the students select five of the words to write on their papers.
  • Ask students to circle their three favorite words.
  • Have students do a quick-write using the two words they did not circle together with the prompt, “I am not who you think I am.” Then have them take the piece wherever they want to go.

2. Have the students find examples of spoken word and youth poetry online.

3. Have the students organize a spoken word poetry performance at their school.


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