16th annual Bradbury Slam showcases eighth graders’ creativity

16th annual Bradbury Slam showcases eighth-graders’ creativity

16th annual Bradbury Slam showcases eighth graders’ creativity

Bullies. Jealousy. Crime. Vengeful ghosts. Melancholic cats. Dystopian classrooms. A jelly donut. All of these ideas and more featured in the stories dreamt up by eighth-graders for the 16th annual Bradbury Slam, held the day before winter break in the Gordon Parks Assembly Hall. The event, organized by Humanities teachers Peggy Doyle, Staci Garner, Lisa Miller, and Joy Parham, is a celebration of the works of Ray Bradbury and held after the classes have read and analyzed his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. Every student in the class writes a short story imitating Bradbury’s style, and then the class votes on three or four peers to read their stories in front of the combined classes. “The stories are often reflective of who and where they are now,” says Doyle, “and they speak to their current ideas, longings, pressures, and sense of identity.”

The slam also teaches students to deeply analyze Bradbury’s idiosyncratic writing in order to imitate it in their own work. The results were a success—stories were rife with his iconic figurative language, rhythmic repetition, and run-on sentences. And finally, when students had the pitch-perfect story, they read their works out loud, bringing them to life through their performances.

student at Bradbury slamSharing their voices in this forum is also a way for students to communicate their hardships and vulnerability. “The pieces often challenge each of us to see the darkness within,” Doyle describes, “but they often also provide us with the realization that many of us share similar struggles. There can be comfort in that.” Students were also quick to draw parallels between Fahrenheit 451 and their own lives. “In many ways, this book is perfect at this very moment when history itself is being challenged, when facts and ideas are no longer agreed upon, and when consumerism perhaps wins out over democracy.”

Similarly to Bradbury’s novels, there are no winners in the slam. Instead, the short stories function as a sort of literary mosaic, each writer adding their own jagged piece to celebrate both Bradbury’s work and their own creativity. “As a collective experience and one in which we appreciate the work of others, it helps to build our community in positive ways,” Doyle says, “as we get to acknowledge and appreciate the creativity of many students in our midst.”

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