Competitive English

Many of the students say that they didn't really know what poetry could do for them until they met Mostransky. They said he was able to help them find their voice and show them what slam poetry was all about.

"Mr. Mo showed us a poem, and I had no idea what slam poetry was," said Camadine. "I always thought poetry was not something I'd be into. But Mr. Mo showed me a different side of it. And I've always wanted to get my word out and try and send a message to the people."

Mostransky said when he is looking to introduce a new unit, he looks at what didn't work for him when he was a student. Finding a way to connect and grab his students' attention is critical in his teaching style.

Hip-hop is the most popular among his students, Mostransky said. The students are now talking a language that teachers have taught them, and they are now talking in metaphors and adding layers to their language.

But most importantly, more than just their grades naturally improving, he said he can see his students build their confidence when they perform their material in front of an audience.

"With spoken word poetry, they have to perform it," he said. "That's where the self-confidence of performing in front of 50 to 100 people is big time."

Tenth-grader Erika Marcucci said the first time that she got up in front of people to perform, the rush of the crowd wanting to hear more from her was exhilarating.

"Seeing people just want to hear the next thing I said was different than any feeling that I could feel," she said. "It was just so impacting on me, and I've just been doing it ever since."

Briana Hassell, a freshman from the Schenectady Central School District, got involved after just hearing about the poetry slam from other students. She said poetry is a big part of her life and figured she would give the slam a shot.

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