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Lawyers and poets

The art of public speaking, in third grade and eighth grade
Thursday, April 13, 2017
 
The eighth grade thinks about lawyers a lot.
 
 


They started preparing for the annual mock trial this week.
 
 
 
 

On Saturday, a dozen of them heard lawyer Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, give a ninety-minute lecture to a sold-out crowd in Providence.



For the mock trial preparations this week, the conversation was on the technical side: when are we building up a witness? when are we tearing them down? how much should we give away in our opening remarks? what should we save for the closing?
 
 

A lesson like the mock trial isn’t just about the law, though.
 
 

It’s also about showmanship - the ability to present one’s ideas in a clear and persuasive way, in front of an audience that might be skeptical.
 
 


For the mock trial, they’ll draw on their knowledge of the material, but they’ll also be drawing on their experience in Gordon science debates, poetry slams, athletics assemblies, open mics and musical comedies.




It’s something they’ve been practicing for many, many years.
 
 

In third grade this week, a group of students were taking an important step on this journey.
 
 

They listened to a recording of Walter Dean Myers reading the beginning of his poem “Love That Boy”.
 
 

They knew the poem.
 
 

Or at least they thought they did.
 
 

The poem changed when they heard it read aloud.
 
 


Their teacher challenged them to find a favorite poem of their own and reread it.
 
 


They read them silently. 
 
 

They whispered them. 
 
 

They muttered them. 
 
 

And, finally, they read them out loud for one another.
 
 

They found surprises along the way.
 
 

These poems had rhythms that had been hiding.
 
 

There was more action.
 
 

Different meanings.
 
 

The poem will tell you how it sounds.
 
 

You can hear it your head.
 
 

But there will always be things, things might you think you know, that you cannot fully understand until you say them out loud and share it with someone else.
 
 

It’s a good lesson, for lawyers and poets alike.
 
 
April is National Poetry Month, and every school day during April, Gordon's Instagram and Facebook have a poem drawn from that day's classroom work. There's a video snapshot of this class posted April 12th.

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