Using Blackout Poetry in the Class

I had come across finished examples of Blackout poetry on line and managed to track down one blog post that gave some details about the concept (although I haven't been able to find it again) and I knew it would be a great activity to try with a  class.

It combines the creativeness of making poems with the skills of skim reading (to find words that suit) and course design and art to make a finished piece.

I had tucked examples away in my teaching folder as a possibility to teach but had not created a formal lesson plan to work off.  I did not think I was going to be able to fit it in during my teaching placement anytime soon but new it would be handy.

Thankfully I did as I had a number of students who finished their project quicker than the rest and a sports event that was meant to take up the afternoon get cancelled  - suddenly I had time to fill in!

I did a quick scramble in the class book we were reading 'The Emerald Atlas', which is fill of amazing descriptive language.  I found a page, quickly enlarged and photocopied a class set.  I wanted to see the variety of poems that could be created from the same source.

I had a base idea in my head as to how I would introduce and teach it (thankfully), but was unsure as to how well the students would connect with the ideas or understand the concept.

They were hooked instantly, even my more reluctant students got stuck in with it!!

I explained how they will need to read the text through once to get an idea of the words on the page, then go back and skim the page to find words to link together to make a poem (which will take several re-reads).  As they find words that work for them, circle the words in pencil, re-read what they have circled and see if there are words that they should loose or add to improve the flow of the poem (editing practice, check!).

I did a quick demonstration before sending them off to start.   Using pencil was the best way to go as for a few I did need to suggest a few less words and remind students that with poetry the normal writing rules go out the window - correct sentence structure is not needed.

The students brought me their poems to read through before starting on the art stage and I was blown away by the poems that were created, some of them were very powerful and the students were delighted when I read them out to the class.

Then came out the markers and the felts and their creativity.  There were a couple who failed to understand to leave their words white and block out the rest and coloured in the words as well, but hey they still looked good.  It was amazing to see the art work they created and the variety in the poems.

Lit up lighting flashes,
Hundreds of rock walls was gone
Path zig zagged
Dancing over
Pointing up
Lightening Forked

Lighting flashes
Nothing by sheer rock walls
Cursed their first day
Watching the howls from the face of the cliff
The path was zig zagged
Gusts of wind
Bringing the valley floor into view
The bottom pointing up the cliff

Hundred feet of sheer rock walls
Plunge howls closer
Face of the cliff was their only hope
Steep, slippery, never more than a couple of feet
Children descended
Valley, hide,

The students quickly figured out that they could delete the 's' and 'ed' and 'ing' from words to help the flow of their poem, which was not something that I thought to tell them to do.  Great demonstrating of them thinking for themselves.

Would do this lesson again in an heart beat with any class - doesn't always have to be on the A2 size and could easily be standard page size.  However being the large size meant that they made for an impressive art display!

This was completed with 9-11 year-olds, which meant the text was more detailed, but I think you could easily do it with younger children but with a simpler text.

I can not recommend this style of poetry enough as a lesson, if you read this and have any questions just ask and I will do my best to answer :)

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