I love to do poetry throughout the year, but April always brings an increase in poetry lessons since it is National Poetry Month. It’s also the month that we have Poem In Your Pocket Day across 2 days at our school.
Our 2nd grade has been busy with poetry in these first few days of the month. They’ve already explored list poetry and now they are trying a kind of poetry called “blackout poetry”. This poetry was invented by Austin Kleon when he had a case of writer’s block and started using the New York Times to help him write his poetry. You can see a time lapse video of Austin’s process, which we showed to each class before we started.
Blackout poetry is a kind of found poetry because it uses words that were created by someone else. You put boxes around the words that you want to use in the poem and then blackout everything else. You can find your text in so many different places: instruction manuals, pages from books, newspapers, junkmail, old tests,……the list could go on and on.
Two classes at a time came to the library for this lesson. We started by looking at the video as well as some examples of blackout poems online. Then, we talked a bit about what we noticed about the process. Austin Kleon put boxes around words that he thought he might use. He tried to find words that seemed to go together. We noticed that there were times where he was sitting and thinking without marking anything on the page. We also noticed that he blacked out some of the words that he originally thought he would use.
We encouraged students to try out this same process at tables. Since 2nd grade is working on animal and plant life cycles and habitats, we selected a few pages from a variety of animal and plant books and made multiple copies of them. Students sat at a page that looked interesting to them. The teachers and circulated to assist students as needed.
Most students jumped right in, but a few needed some help getting started. One of the things that I did to help students was just to talk out loud about what I would do if I was writing the poem. I said words that seemed to have a connection with one another and then scanned the page for more words that fit with those words (and so on). Most of the time this nudged students to start.
As students finished selecting their words, they used crayons, color pencils, regular pencils, and markers to blackout their page. Then, they practiced reading their poems. Some shared with one another.
Other students decided to use our poetry Flipgrid to record their poems.
Many of these students will carry these poems in their pockets on Poem In Your Pocket Day. I love seeing how students break down the text to create a new meaning.