03 Nov, 2017
10 : 00
Inspired by the UK National Poetry Day, Yew Chung International School of Beijing Secondary students recently took part in the annual Coffee House poetry slam. Based on the topic “Freedom”, the Coffee House gave students a chance to bring their own voices alive, showcasing their talents for an auditorium packed with classmates and teachers.
In light of the event’s success, Bradley Locke, Head of English, and Rebecca Flavin, English Teacher at YCIS Beijing, explain why literature is a vital topic of study even for students bound for professions in science or technology, and also share how the Coffee House helped students to develop their creativity.
The Bridge Between Disciplines
Literature is an overarching discipline – benefitting students in all other subject areas – because it helps them to become effective communicators. No matter what profession students eventually enter, communication is the fountainhead of effective collaboration and teamwork. Students need to be able to explain things precisely, to communicate their understanding of a topic, and to make themselves heard. Literature is the vehicle through which students are able to do this.
Literature also helps students to humanize topics that they may otherwise not relate to. For example, the Years 6-8 Learning Community is currently doing a topic on water. But rather than simply focusing on its scientific properties, they’re also doing a novel study that helps them to see the impact that a lack of water has on someone in particular. This moves a learning concept from the abstract to the particular, and adds a human voice to the learning.
Another important aspect of the Coffee House was that it’s an active, not a passive, exercise. Learning needs to be contextualized; it should be made real for students. It can’t be simply a passive exercise because that doesn’t cause them to make it relevant to their own lives. And when students are actually doing something and engaging with the topic, then it becomes more relevant, and they’re more likely to retain it.
The Coffee House gave students an outlet for their personal voice because they had to actually create and share their own work. Furthermore, the applause and encouragement they received from the audience reinforced both their learning and their self-confidence.
Several students participated who have only been with YCIS Beijing for nine weeks and are not as strong in English as their classmates. Yet for these students to participate was incredible. They were terrified beforehand, but they did it. And the student body supported their bravery with cheers and applause. Those students’ sense of accomplishment will now propel their progress throughout the rest of the year.
Keeping with the theme of “Freedom”, students were also given a lot of room to experiment with the form and style of their work. One of the benefits of this approach, which applies as well to academic papers and even other subject areas, is that it aids students in becoming more creative – and creativity is often needed as a starting point for any project. Being able to approach problems with an open an imaginative mind helps students towards finding new and innovative solutions. The Coffee House gave them the chance to grow and flex their creative muscles, which they can now continue to exercise through other projects and pursuits.