04/24/2021 / Education

Black Out Poetry- An Imaginative Way to Recycle Words

As the days of April fly by, creative ideas are flowing in the classroom. My students are loving what is commonly called “Black Out" poetry. If you are not familiar with this form of poetry, it is an imaginative way to ignite writing fun and get students excited to work with words. This technique is also a way to quench the “I don’t know what to write” mantra, and a sure cure for writer’s block! 
Black Out poetry is exactly what the name describes- blacking out words to create poetry. There are many sites and sources on the internet sharing this style of poetry, and I have learned from several. Here is how I share this creative form in my classroom: 

First, find pages of text to use from newspapers, magazines, or old library books that have begun to lose pages. Other ideas include using old issues of classroom subscriptions such as Time For Kids or Scholastic News, or to print out articles from Readworks or Newsela

Then, choose a variety of texts to copy and offer to students. The idea is that students will scan the text, not read in its entirety, to capture words or phrases that catch their eyes.  Students can circle words or use a highlighter to select the words. As they begin to capture their words, a theme may begin to develop based on word meanings. The more words captured, the better. This allows for more play with the words later. 

After scanning and word collecting, students read through their selection of words. Next, they  can use a dark crayon, colored pencil, or a sharpie and “black out” any word they won’t use in their poem. It is fun to read through the remaining words that now pop off the page, and witness a poem begin its reveal . Now  it is time for rewriting the poem on a fresh piece of paper. I’ve read and seen others take the words and use a blank Google document to build their poem to publish, but there is something about using paper and pencil, along with other creative writing tools to write and illustrate a poem. I guess this is where I’ve put my spin on this form. 

Black Out poetry offers so many ways for students to expand on their creative writing. This form of poetry helps students to capture their thoughts through touch, sight, and emotion. Their minds bloom with creativity as the words pop off the page and play with their imaginations. The finished products are artistic and unique, and they are proudly shared. I think my favorite part of this writing activity is not only the words that are selected, but the mix of illustration, symbols, and words coming together. 


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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and is an educator researcher and writer. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices, and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. Educator well being is a priority, thus the name "Mindful Teaching Moments". Mindfulness along with knowledge is important. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.