Summary: I first started using Paul Flores' spoken word poem with adult intermediate English language learners as an example of an activity called "list poems," where students explore different ways of expressing descriptions with one adjective (here, "brown"). The students write their own list poems, we share them, and then we talk about how meaning is social—how the context in which the descriptor is used, the social interaction itself, and the ways the participants interpret both the words and the interaction, shape the meanings made of the words. In teaching sociology, I would place this activity in a discussion of social theory—perhaps in a discussion of social constructionism, symbolic interaction, or cultural studies. Stuart Hall, for example, describes the making and sharing of meaning as a social process. It is possible to see the social process of meaning-making here in the different feelings one might get from the poem when reading it silently as compared to watching it performed, or when reading/viewing it alone as compared to reading/ viewing it with others. The poem can be read at www.marcusshelby.com.
Submitted By: Margaret Austin Smith