Hi, friends. In the past 2 months, I’ve started 4 drafts, but never managed to find the time to pull everything together to finish any of them. Then, in one night, I found some time and energy, and managed to write not one but two new posts. So here’s my second post of 2020. I hope you enjoy!
The school I teach at has a ton of scheduling quirks, due mostly to the corporate work study jobs our students go to one day a week instead of class. We start earlier in August than most local schools, and go later into June. Thus, our first semester ends 2 weeks after winter break. This means we have one week and one day (4-5 class days) with our students before our semester finals. Since my class, and my final, focus on reading and writing, I did not need to spend five days reviewing. However, I didn’t want to start a new unit, only to be interrupted by finals.
Our first day back, we read, we wrote, we talked about reading and writing, and that pretty much filled the class. The day before exams, students worked in pairs to pre-read one of the readings for the final. That left me with three days, not enough to do anything major, but three days that I didn’t just want to waste.
I was still scrambling to grade their personal narratives (a blog post for another day) and their video book talks (a blog post I finally finished!), so I was NOT about to assign another big project that I wouldn’t have time to grade.
I wanted to do something fun and creative and easy to grade. My students always surprise me with their creativity when given the time and space to freely create. So I decided to try something I’d been wanting to do for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to yet: Blackout Poetry.
The premise is simple: using a page of any book, select words and phrases to form a poem. Black out the rest of the words, preferably making a design of some sort that relates to the poem you’ve written.
Ideally, you would use actual book pages, perhaps from a book that is falling apart or otherwise unusable, but since my classroom library is only a few years old and my books are more likely to disappear than to fall apart, I went a different route. I grabbed a big stack of books off my shelves, went to the copier, opened to random pages, and started copying. I copied two pages per book, and used about 20 different books. Then I made enough four copies of the whole stack of pages, giving me one per student plus plenty of extras when students make mistakes / lose them / change their minds.
I started with some examples that I found online. Sadly, I couldn’t find any in Spanish, but that will only be a problem this year, since I can use the work my students made this year as examples in class next year. After showing the examples and talking a little about the process, we went over the first few steps and students got started.
Rather than retype all of my instructions, here is a link to the instructions and examples I used in class.
Ideas and examples for my instructions came from this blog.
Click here to view some of the best finished products.
Overall, my students had approximately 70 minutes of class time over three days to complete their blackout poems. Some students used every minute and created incredible works of art. Some students wasted time or lost theirs and threw something together at the last minute. In the end, I was happy with how the process went and impressed with the work of most of my students.
What is your favorite creative project for students? What is a project you’re still waiting to try? Next on my list to try: the one-pager!
Scroll down for examples of some of our work in progress. I plan on using these to replace the English in-progress examples in my instructions next year.