I’ve seen several English and social studies teachers use “Black Out Poetry” activities with good success in their classrooms this year. For those who have never implemented this activity, the basic idea is for students to create a unique piece of poetry from a previously existing text or document. The students find words or phrases within their text to include in their poem and then cross through, remove, or “black out” the words, phrases, and sentences that are unnecessary.
Seeing as it’s April now and SOL review is right around the corner, you could integrate this type of activity into your review plans. It could be interesting to give students a “theme” or essential question that encompasses your entire year of study. For example, US history teachers could ask, “What is the promise of America? Did America live up to that promise?” Then, assign each student or group of students a unit of study from your year. Depending on the time you have available and the abilities of your students, either provide your students with documents from that time period or have the students to locate a primary source to represent their assigned era. Once the students have these documents, they can create a black out poem from the document that summarizes the importance/legacy of that time period and addresses the essential question.
Another idea is to use black out poetry as a method for discussing bias, viewpoint, and historical perspective. Provide students with several different primary, secondary, and tertiary documents all relating to the same event and/or era (or have the students locate these documents on their own). Then, have the students use their document to create a black out poem that discusses the legacy of that event from the viewpoint of the document’s author. Students can then compare/contrast the final products and use them to discuss why there are varying interpretations of history.
This blog post has some excellent suggestions regarding a workflow for creating and sharing Black Our Poetry, including using the iPad app “Explain Everything” to create the product and then using a publishing app to combine the student’s poems. I love this idea. The touch screen features of the iPad make the tool ideal for Black Out Poetry, and students can use the iPad’s video recording features to record a reflection of their process and overall work. At Moody, we will have a class set of iPads next year for this type of activity, but for now, there are a couple other ways that you could complete this type of activity and have students combine and/or display their work in the way suggested by the article:
- Have each primary source available in PDF form. Have the students use the “Cross Out” tool (Tools>Comment Markup) in Adobe Acrobat. Then, gather and combine all of the PDFs into one document. You could upload this document to Google Drive so that students could collaboratively comment on each other’s work.
- Have the students use the Highlight feature of Microsoft Word (color=black) to mark up the documents and create their poems. Have the students screencast their process (using something like ActivInspire’s screen capture feature or a tool like Screencastomatic). The student could use video editing software to “speed up” this process for an interesting visual and then narrate over the video to describe their process and final product.
If this is something that interests you, please let me know. I’d be glad to help out!