How to Make Poetry Exciting and Relevant for Teens On-Demand

Spoken Word Educator and Respect the Mic anthology editor Peter Kahn will lead an interactive workshop with an alumni contributor to the anthology whose poem will be read and discussed, along with another from the anthology. Peter will also be joined by current student members of the OPRFHS Spoken Word Club. Participants will be shown ways to implement the anthology and corresponding website to engage young people with poetry. Participants will write and, on a voluntary basis, some will get to share out. You will have a good road map for adding poetry as a programming option. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Learn how to listen to poetry
  • Learn how to write poetry
  • Tips to engage teens on writing and reciting Poetry 
  • Utilize the Respect the Mic Anthology 


A former Chicago social worker, Peter Kahn has been an English teacher since 1994 and a Spoken Word Educator since 2003 at Oak Park/River Forest High School. His students can be seen in Louder Than a Bomb and America to Me. A founding member of the London poetry collective Malika’s Kitchen, he co-founded the London Teenage Poetry Slam and, as a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths-University of London, created the Spoken Word Education Training Programme. He earned his MA in English Education from The Ohio State University, student taught at Columbus East High School and taught for the Young Scholars Program. Peter was a featured speaker at the National Council of Teachers of English’s annual convention and runner-up in the NCTE and Penguin Random House Maya Angelou Teacher Award for Poetry. Along with Patricia Smith and Ravi Shankar, he edited The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks reviewed in The New York Times by Claudia Rankine. Along with Hanif Abdurraqib, Franny Choi, and former student Dan “Sully” Sullivan, he edited Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School, deemed “Electric and Expansive” by Kirkus Reviews. Peter’s 2020 poetry collection, Little Kings has poems featured in The London Guardian and The Forward Book of Poetry. 

Noelle Aiisa Berry, artiststically known as “Aiisa la Mala”, is a 2011 Alum from Oak Park and River Forest Highschool. During her highschool career Noelle performed in 8 of the 12 spokenword showcases and was captain of 6 of those 8. Noelle was also able to compete and perform at the Tatse of Chicago being a proud member of the Spoken Word Club’s hip hop wing. During and through her highschool and College careers she’s preformed at Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakes, Victory Gardens Theatre and many others singing, acting, dancing and writing. Noelle is now a business owner and entrepreneur running a tech based financial firm coast to coast and in Puerto Rico with her family. She has been integrating the “Respect the Mic” culture with her business, business partners and agents for over 5 years. With her love of the city of Chicago, her community and her family, she wants to continue the Respect the Mic Legacy Creating, Leading and Educating globally.