Snapping Up Lyric Cafe

-Last year, I posted something to our SCASL list-serv about our Lyric Cafe. There were so many questions that I decided to make a blog post about it. 

Dale Anthony, the former Literacy Coach at our school showed me how to do Lyric Cafe. I have always enjoyed it. And, it has always been held in the library.  Here's how it works. Lyric Cafe is a celebration of student writing. What better time to celebrate than the end of the year?   After testing is over and you sometimes hear people say, "We took the test, the kids are done. I'm done. Why do we have school for so many days after testing?" we invite students to read at least one piece of  their writing from the school year.  Some choose poems, some choose short stories. Teachers read too.  In order to participate students  must agree to get up in front of their fellow students, use the microphone and read their work. Those that do not wish to read cannot attend. Four classes come at once, so students will be reading in front of people who are not in their classes. Scary! 

We (8th grade ELA teachers and I) do this with our eighth graders only. Some sixth and seventh grade ELA teachers hold their own lyric cafe event in their rooms. At one time, when our school was just grades seven and eight, we had two days of lyric cafe, one for each grade. We are now home to grades six, seven and eight. With the end of the year being so packed with events, it is almost impossible to find three free days after testing. 

  We aim for a "coffee house" atmosphere and serve hot cocoa, cappuccino, danishes and cookies.  We play music while the students are getting seated and getting their refreshments. It has been challenging to find places in the library that make the best staging area. This past year, however, we came to the conclusion that we didn't need a stage as much as we needed a decent backdrop. Our art teacher uses these black doors connected with hinges to display art in the hallways of our school. These made a perfect backdrop. We draped white twinkle lights over the top, bought balloons and got out the laser lights. Wow! The students loved it. 

We turn off the lights, cover the windows and doors and close the blinds. Students come up to the "stage" in groups of four. This is so they don't feel all alone "up there on stage." One of us always gives each group of students "directions" before they start reading. No laughing, no clapping, no negative comments. Instead of clapping, we snap. Cool, man! Cool. 

 Last year was the first year we had Lyric Cafe without Dale. We weren't sure if we would be able to make it as nice as she always had. We even thought about not having it at all. But my colleague Ruth insisted on carrying on. I am very glad she did. Even though we have been doing this for years I am always surprised and impressed with what our students bring to read. What a great way to end the school year and send students that I have known since they were in sixth grade off to the high school.