Using Freedom Summer to Create Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry (14)In third grade, students learn about civil rights through the standard:

SS3H2 The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s
rights and freedoms in a democracy.

Students specifically learn about Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglas, and Thurgood Marshall.  When these students get to 5th grade, they will spend a larger amount of time studying the civil rights movement, but I thought this would be a good time to explore some text that connected with their current understanding of civil rights.

Students spent a small amount of time sharing what they currently understand about segregation and civil rights.  They brought up things like drinking from separate fountains, riding in the back of the bus, and holding boycotts of the transportation system.

blackout poetry (13)

Then, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.  Students immediately noticed the connections to their own understanding of segregation as the 2 main characters could not do the same things together.  They were shocked when they got to the part in the story where the two boys couldn’t go to the pool because it was closed and filled in with asphalt.  The students used words like unfair, lunatics, and furious when describing their feelings and the idea of closing things rather than follow the law.

blackout poetry (12)

After discussing the book, I showed them how some artists and poets use text that they find in the world and turn it into something new.  Austin Kleon, in Austin Texas, is one of these writers and artists.  We looked at a few of his poems called “blackout poems”.  He takes pages from newspapers or other texts and blacks out all of the words on the page except for the words in the poem.

blackout poetry (2)

I gave the students one of three pages from Freedom Summer.  They spent time looking for words that stood out to them as a possible poem.  When they decided on the words of their poem, they circled them or drew boxes around them with a black marker.  Next, they used that same marker to blackout the rest of the words on the page.

blackout poetry (1) blackout poetry (3) blackout poetry (4)

It was interesting to see how students interpreted the exact same page in a different way.

blackout poetry (5)

We had students share their poems at the end, and it gave us a new understanding of what stood out on the page and in the story for students.  It was as if the poem helped us to look more closely at the meaning that we might all take from the text.  As usual, this was more difficult for some students than others, but we noticed that this kind of poetry did take away the barrier of spelling or deciding what to write.  We could instead focus on the meaning of the words on the page and use those words to interpret the story as a poem.

blackout poetry (1)

Here are a few of the poems that students created.

blackout poetry (9) blackout poetry (8) blackout poetry (7) blackout poetry (11) blackout poetry (10)

 

2 thoughts on “Using Freedom Summer to Create Blackout Poetry

  1. Heather Verreault says:

    You have inspired me!!! Using discarded books to use! Already reached out to the Social Studies teachers to see if they would like to collaborate!

    • plemmonsa says:

      Heather,
      Best wishes as you try it out. This was my first time with this kind of poetry but I have an even bigger lesson with 5th grade planned for next week using blackout poetry and the Word Mover app.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s