Monday, March 28, 2016

Blackout Poetry for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. I use to love teaching about poetry but like most teachers I typically covered the same types of poems all the time. A few years ago I ran into a "new" (to me) type of poetry called Blackout Poetry created by Austin Kleon (there are several videos of him creating poems on YouTube) and I wanted to give it a try.

The idea is to "find" words within other peoples writing and create a poem using the words that are already on the paper (and blacking out the words you don't need). If you do a Google search most people use newspapers (and we did too). 

As a class we had created "found" poems using cut outs from magazines so I thought this would be a nice, and different, extension of that activity. I was wrong. :)

It didn't go as planned.  In hindsight what I thought was going to be easy was a little to abstract for children (fourth graders). On the plus side they took the project to mean summarize the main points of the article so it wasn't a completely wasted lesson (and the technique can certainly be used to summarize an article).

My problem was my enthusiasm was there but I didn't really give a good explanation...nor did I create a gradual release model (I was more like... "Look how fun this is! Lets try it!"). I also found that the newspaper print was too small and the text too complex.

I'm trying to get some of my teacher friends to give it a try (because it is still cool!) and came across this BLOG POST from a teacher who did it with 2nd graders. I also came across this PRESENTATION that goes over the five basic rules of how to get started. The 2nd grade teacher wisely used larger print text and she tied it into their study of animals. She included pictures of the process.

Of course as a technology coach I was thinking that teachers can give students their text via Edmodo or Google Classroom and then students could use their Notability app to do the circling and blacking out. Teachers can get the text from kid friendly sites and blow up the font before sharing (or printing) with students. 

In the sample below I took an article about jellyfish from the Newsela site and copied and pasted it to a Word document (on the site I changed the lexile range to a second grade level to make it less wordy). I saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to Edmodo. I opened it on my iPad in Notability and started to comb through the words until I found something I liked. 

If you have tried Blackout Poetry with elementary students let me know how it went!

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