Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Blackout Poetry

I often struggle when it comes to teaching Poetry.  I want to find a balance between appreciation for Poetry as an art form and skills that students will need - analysis of Poetry is a skill that is assessed on their standardized exams.  I'm often looking for ways to teach Poetry that are A) fun B) allow students to analyze use of language and C) connect to a larger text or unit that I teach (this means that I don't need to teach a stand alone "Poetry" unit, and can instead weave Poetry throughout the year).

I first saw an example of blackout poetry at a session at an NCTE conference.  Students were studying Les Miserables, and they created blackout poetry on some of the pages.  I have not been able to have an extra paperback for kids to write directly in, so I decided to photocopy a few pages from a variety of novels instead.  I have also had students do blackout poetry with pages in the newspaper.

Once students have a page that they will engage with, I tell them to scan the page.  They are not reading for comprehension.  Rather, they are looking for key words and phrases that jump out at them.  Students are trying to find a key word or phrase to create their poem around.

Once students have a "main idea" for their poem, they can scan the text to find words to build their poem.  Blackout poems are often very short- as in one or two sentences.  That is okay.  Students are practicing working with language (every word of a poem is deliberate) and working with main idea (they are building a poem around an idea and looking for language to help them to express that idea).

I have found that this is a great way to introduce a larger text, like a novel.  I can choose a few pages that are rich in language and photocopy these.  Students can work with the language on those pages to create poetry.  Not only are they working with the words of the author that we are about to study, but they are also getting a sneak peek into the novel - which allows them to engage in the text, make predictions, and make connections.

Food for Thought... what are your favourite Poetry activities to do with your students? 

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