Reading, Writing, & Religion

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Archive for the tag “blackout”

Blackout Poets Week in Review

A lot of planning went into Blackout Poets week, and I give Lesley Mosher credit for coming up with the initial idea. It never would have crossed my mind to host a week of blackout poetry on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like such a daunting task! In 2014, it’s very possible, though, with two hard-working teachers, collaborating through the power of the Internet.

We began our work with a series of emails, which morphed into an ever-growing Google Document. Along the way, we dreamed big and tried to get Austin Kleon to host an #engchat Twitter chat on blackout poetry. Austin was gracious enough to respond to my email request, but he was in the midst of touring with his newest book and couldn’t make any promises. Fortunately, Lesley and I were offered the #engchat hosting gig for March 17, and we are grateful to Meenoo Rami for the opportunity to talk poetry with passionate educators. If you missed the chat, it’s available online in the #engchat archives.

Lesley and I spread the word of #blackoutpoets week through social media and our respective blogs, and we waited. Would students and teachers post? Would we end up featuring only our own students’ work?

As you saw throughout last week,  students and teachers of various grades and subjects turned into blackout poets. You can see the highlighted poets in these blog posts:

A big thank you to everyone who participated. Lesley and I have already agreed to host this week again next year. We hope if you participated this year that you’ll do so again in 2015. And in case you missed your chance, please join us next year.

The spring can get very busy, so if you’d rather do some blackout poetry earlier on in the year, that’s great. Just remember to share some of the poems during #blackoutpoets week. The tentative date is April 6-10, 2015. Until then, keep writing and reading!

Wanted: Blackout Poets

Blackout Poetry Week
April 7-11, 2014
Use #blackoutpoets on Twitter and Instagram

blackout poets logo

Fellow teacher and poetry enthusiast Lesley Mosher and I  invite all educators, students, and authors to help celebrate poetry in the classroom by participating in a worldwide blackout poetry event on Twitter and Instagram. Remember to tag all your posts with #blackoutpoets. You can find more information about how cool blackout poetry is by reading blog posts by Lesley and me. We also created some special examples based on the literature for the grades we teach. Lesley created this poem from A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.

Middle Grade Example


I made a blackout poem from Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

YA Example


We’d love for you and your students to create blackout poems from your favorite novels, newspaper articles, or any piece of writing lying around your home. Students from all over the world will be participating and sharing their love of words. See you on Twitter and Instagram!

Please contact @blackoutpoets, @lesleymosher, or me for more information.

Blackout Poetry #engchat

The weekly #engchat Twitter discussion will focus on blackout poetry on Monday, March 17, from 7-8pm EST. I will be co-hosting the chat with my Twitter pal Lesley Mosher. We’ve been planning some blackout poetry events for a while now to take place in April, which is National Poetry Month. Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout as well as the books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!, has agreed to try to drop in for part of the #engchat. We’ll be discussing what blackout poetry is, how to use it in the classroom, and what successes we’ve had with it, among other topics. I hope you’ll make time to join us!

Blackout Poetry

Over Christmas break, I received a message from a high school graduate, urging me to check out the poetry of Tyler Knott. He writes a variety of poems, but I found myself drawn to his blackout poetry. A recent favorite is “Look on the happy side of all things.” Notice how Tyler adds punctuation in his typed version of the poem.

I bet you’ve figured out how blackout poetry works. Austin Kleon collected his blackout poetry of newspaper articles in Newspaper Blackout. This accompanying video demonstrates the stages of the blackout poetry process.

Last year when we experimented with blackout poetry in Creative Writing 1, I gave all my students the same article from the Wall Street Journal about being lovesick. Some teacher in our building had ordered the newspapers but was not using every issue, so I scavenged, and my students and I had a pretty good time.

This year our school’s librarian happened to be weeding her collection of books in preparation for the big move to our new library. This was great timing for blackout poetry. I grabbed three books for blackout poetry. They were all nonfiction: one was about dog training, one was about whales, and one was religious. I had an office aide rip out some pages from each book, and I gave a pile of pages to each table group. We had already examined Tyler Knott’s poetry, so we were prepared. Students placed a blank sheet of paper beneath their book page and set to work with their markers. The room soon fumed with the smell of 24 Sharpies, and a few of us (myself included) cried out in frustration when we accidentally marked over a word we meant to keep. Some students had the foresight to mark their keepers with pencil before launching in with permanent marker.

Even if you don’t teach creative writing like I do, you might be able to incorporate blackout poetry into a lesson in your English class. One idea I have but have yet to try is to give students a page from a novel we’re studying and have them create a poem from an important scene in the novel. Now I’m not suggesting you have student deface their novels with Sharpies. You’d have to make some copies of some of the novel’s pages. I don’t think that would be breaking copyright because those copies would be for classroom use and would constitute a tiny fraction of the overall book.

Finally, if you have some weeding to do in your own classroom library, consider ripping out some pages of your weeded books before you completely thrown them away.

Here are some of my students’ poems:

I decided to go
early in the morning
before the rest wake.
Fleeing to a tide
they shall never know,
running to the shore.

Men like football. Some-
one has to win. Great success-
es are full of praise.
~Catherine (who turned her blackout poem into a haiku!)

He didn’t deserve mercy.
He got a chance.
I had a pickax:
death, executed, slaying,
dead at 6:45 p.m.

An angel appeared.
Believe it without fear.
Things are different than before.
There is something worth living for.

He tore the bars away.
Gone, he left with a simple, lovely tune.
Now you’ll notice
a family so near–heartache.

Human history:
The combination of technology and manmade war.
Such marvels and other deadly unseen carcasses
board other forms of life which share the planet with us.

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