Teaching a class of primary students how to write blackout poetry is something I never would have thought of doing until I watched two of my student teachers do a lesson with 9 and 10 year olds.
Their lesson was fabulous and while I was enjoying it I couldn’t help but think that I could modify their ideas for a younger crowd!
What is blackout poetry?
If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a type of found poetry. It’s also called redacted poetry or erasure poetry and is a process where you take a piece of text, focus on the words you’d like to highlight, and black out the rest.
But that’s just the start. The really fun part for a lot of people is the “blackout” part, because this is where your inner creativity can really shine.
What are the benefits?
I’m so glad you asked:
- It gives meaning to old texts (think familiar poems and stories)
- It’s a fun way to do repeated readings (very important for new readers)
- It helps focus attention on individual words
- It might be an easier path for reluctant writers
- It teaches you to play with language
- It’s creative and FUN!
How to create blackout poetry with six year olds
It’s not as tricky as you might think.
The only requirement is that your students can read. It’s even okay if they’re early readers. You’ll just need to go on a hunt for some “just right” texts for them. Or you can read the text for them and have them point out the words they’d like to keep.
Here are the steps to follow:
1. Find the appropriate text
May is the perfect time of year to use your year long poetry collection. You’ve been teaching one poem a week, right?
If everyone in your class has a poetry duotang then ask them to choose a favourite poem (it should be a long one though).
If this isn’t a possibility then you could use a song or nursery rhyme everyone is familiar with. Another great alternative is to type out some long passages from the books they’re reading. A photocopied page from a children’s magazine is also a good choice.
I chose a longish poem in my example below.
2. Highlight the key words and phrases
It’s super important to model this for your students first. I’d show them a blackout poem that I’ve already created and discuss it with them.
Then we’d all develop one poem together under the document camera.
After that I would send them off to create their own.
Give your students a black sharpie and have them draw a box around each of the words or short phrases they’d like to highlight. Encourage them to look for words that have personal meaning, or words they feel emotionally connected to.
It’s probably going to be as simple as, “I’m circling pink because it’s my favourite colour” and that’s just fine! Once they’ve boxed in a selection of words they’re ready for the next step.
3. Decorate and colour it in
For some kids this might be the best part! This is where they can get super creative and “erase” or black out the rest of the text with fancy scribbles and big doodles with their black sharpies.
Be sure to remind them that their illustrations/doodles should be related to their poem.
If you like, you can even add some colour to jazz it up.
I hope you found this helpful and feel inspired to use blackout poetry with your own students.
Have a wonderful day!