The Benefits of Blackout Poetry

Students completed blackout poems this week on portion of an article about the importance of studying History. I learned as much as the students did! This is an excellent, challenging activity for all students and wanted to pass along some tips I learned in case it can help you. (I posted this article for my students on Schoology--the steps are really useful.)
I've learned:
  • listing the words on a scrap sheet of paper (step 3) really is critical--we skipped this step and ended up going back to do it (I'm requiring it to be turned in from now on as part of the completed poem.) It was eye-opening for students to see their words out of the text and they could much more easily pick different words/thoughts.
  • if students are struggling I suggested having them start with a main word (like History) and then count every 7th word to see if that string of words could make a complete thought/statement (It actually worked many times but may have to be changed to every 8th or 10th word, etc.)
  • I quickly realized that simply using phrases the author wrote in your poem isn't synthesizing the reading, it's just "picking out phrases". I steered students away from phrase use so that they could deconstruct the reading and then rebuild it (it allowed for much deeper learning).
  • I am always reflecting on grading and let the students know that they weren't being graded on this poem, rather on answering two reflection questions about their poem in a video reflection. (The video reflection will only be viewed by me.) This was a first attempt at a very challenging activity--I want to know what they learned from this poem and what their plan is for their next blackout poem (which they will complete very soon).
Blackout poems will become a staple in my classroom as another way to enable all students (including me) to become more sophisticated and creative thinkers.


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