The blackout poem – a type of found poetry – is popular these days. Found poetry is a genre of poetry that takes words from another text. While Blackout poetry is one popular type, there are other ways to create a found poem that uses fewer resources and time.
Blackout poetry is fun. It looks cool and it gives students a chance to get creative. However, it soaks up a whole lot of ink, leaving markers dried up and unusable. And yes, you could use crayons or paint, but that takes a lot of set up/clean up time for you, not to mention the class time students will need to complete the assignment.
An alternative to the blackout poem
That’s why I prefer to use another strategy to get students to create found poems, one that’s much easier to implement with an end result that students will be proud of too.
To create these found poems, students need a printed or digital page from a text that they can write on or manipulate. This could be from a novel or short story, a play, or even a nonfiction piece. I like to choose a passage that shows a significant aspect from the text, one that illuminates something about a character, theme, etc. It’s even better when students choose the passage as they have to identify one that is significant in the text.
First, students read the passage for understanding, then again to highlight or underline important words and phrases. They may or may not end up using them in their found poem; this is just a starting point.
Next, they use what they highlighted to write a poem. They can play around with the arrangement of words and phrases. They can also add a word here and there to make the syntax work, but encourage them from adding too many. They must also be sure to keep the meaning the same. Part of the assignment is to get them to zero in on what’s really important in the passage, so they can start changing the writer’s meaning. You can see examples here from Macbeth and The Story of an Hour.
The excerpt from Macbeth is, of course, already in poetic form but because students are selecting only portions of the passage, they need to show an understanding of what’s important.
You can still incorporate the artistic aspects of the blackout poem with this strategy: after students have written their poems, . students can draw or insert digital images onto their pages.
Try found poetry with your students:
If you’d like to try this with your students, click here to get some instructions and examples. You might also like to check out these posts that focus on ways to engage students with poetry:
Collaborative Where I’m From Poems
5 Ways to Make Poetry Fun and Accessible
“Anti-Hero” Mini-lesson & Activities
Let me know if you have any questions!
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