Thursday, June 20, 2019

Teaching Blackout Poetry to Kids

How awesome was today? Very awesome. I was invited to teach a fifth grade class about blackout poetry, and somewhat warily, I agreed. I used to be an art docent, but after a year off I felt out of practice with getting organized and engaging twenty plus kids. It's always a crap-shoot.

However, once I got the ball rolling, the kids listened! They seemed interested and attentive and that right there is more than half the battle. Not to mention, I had the help of Michael Nyers (@fade.into.a.blackout). He sent me an outline to get started, which I modified for the age of the audience and the time allotted for the lesson. I also gleaned some "how-to's" from Spark Creativity's blog: The Easy Guide to Blackout Poetry.

I had one hour, so I needed to keep the up-front talking to a minimum. Here are my notes:

A 1-Hour Blackout Poetry Lesson 

- Book pages
- Scratch paper to protect work space and to make notes
- #2 Pencil
- Staedtler Mars plastic white erasure
- Markers, colored pencils, crayons...
- Blackout Poetry Books for examples 

Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest says:“A blackout poem is when a poet takes a marker (usually a black marker) to already established text–like in a newspaper–and starts redacting words until a poem is formed. The key thing with a blackout poem is that the text, AND redacted text, form a sort of visual poem.” 
The process can also be called found poetry,redacted poetry, and even erasure poetry. 
It has a history that can date back to 1760, when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor would make funny word associations between the two columns of text in the newspaper, calling them “Cross-readings.” 
Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout (copyright 2010), says:“Blackout poetry’s history looks less like a straight line and more like blips on a radar screen.” 
I wanted to recycle the proof copies of my YA books and was inspired by a community of blackout poets on Instagram, like Michael Nyers and Collette Love Hilliard. 
I carry a "blackout" travel bag and can create poems anytime I have to wait, like in an airport, riding the bus, a museum, the dentist's name it. I'm never bored. My bag contains:
- Proof book pages from Dealing with Blue and Burnout.
- A Mead Pencil Pouch with Prismacolor pencils, #2 pencils, a pencil sharpener that holds shavings, a hi-lighter, a black ultra-fine-tipped marker, and a Staedtler eraser.
- A compass.

- First skim the words on the page without reading for content. The idea is find words that catch your attention or inspire you in some way.
- Very lightly circle the words directly on the page. OR if preferred, write the words you find in order on another sheet of paper to keep track of them. 
- Go back and reread the chosen words to find a theme and fine tune your poem. Need connecting words like a, an, the, in, on, and…etcetera? Try to find them as letters within words.
- Boldly outline the words you do want with a marker and erase the pencil lines you don't want.
- Then, with a pencil, lightly sketch a picture, add shapes, or draw symbols that relate to the theme of your poem. Outline the lines you want to keep with marker. Maybe add arrows or flow lines to help reader follow the words of the poem (typically a reader reads from left to right, top to bottom).
- Last step, blackout the words you don’t want--and if you have a sketch, color it in-- using marker, colored pencils, paint, paper and glue, or other.  

Take fifteen minutes or less discussing notes and showing samples from the books. Allow forty-five minutes to work.

Other links on the topic:
John DePasquale of Scholastics - Blackout Poetry
Teachers Pay Teachers - Blackout Poetry: Make poetry fun!
Emily H. Vogel - A Middle Grade Lesson on Blackout Poetry (Grades 6-8)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Blackout Poetry Book Pile

Blackout Poetry Books

I interrupt my June Reading Challenge to introduce a stack of blackout poetry books. I've been asked to teach a 5th grade class next week on how to make a #blackoutpoem and ordered some books to share, mine included. Big thanks to @fade.into.a.blackout for the teaching notes and the great read: Finding Light in the Darkness by Michael Nyers. I also particularly loved A Wonderful Catastrophe by Colette Love Hilliard.

I've truly been enjoying Austin Kleon's writing style by reading his motivational series on creativity and art and am currently reading Newspaper Blackout, which includes the history of the blackout poem. So far, really well done.

I did have my reservations starting Hidden Messages of Hope by John Carroll when I cracked open the first page. With credits like squishiepuss, Manleyfunwithrobots, Cummings, DeBenedictis, and Jessica Hunt, I couldn't help but wonder if some kind of pervy word-play ensued. What kind of book did I just buy, again? I looked up the people and their links and everything seemed legit, though coincidental and curious enough. I read on and found the poetry and art, the overall book, delightful.

The two skinny numbers on the right without titles on the spine--*shakes fist* Damn you Amazon!--Well, those are mine. The colorful and whimsical duo known as Sounds Complicated and Distance Between.

I'm happy to be a part of the blackout poetry community and to support this group of artists/poets/authors. I know the fifth grade teacher is excited to learn this process, too, and that's a good start :)

Enjoy the reads!