Lesson Plans

Blackout Poetry for Thematic Connections to News and Literature

Blackout poetry from students at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. Image by Pamela Henderson. USA, 2019

Objective:

Through the visual deconstruction and recreation of poetry, students will learn that words can inspire visual imagery, as well as demonstrate understanding and mastery of a literary skill.

Materials:

Neutral tone printer papers, pencil, sharpie or Expo marker, ballpoint pen, whiteout, white crayon, colored pencils, chalk, etc. (You may also use discarded book pages if those are available.)

Background Information:

This lesson was written by Pamela Henderson-Kirkland, who teaches English at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. Before starting this lesson, students had been tracking ways that authors develop theme throughout the course of a text by character development, as well as utilization of author’s craft “magic.” This lesson connects that learning to nonfiction texts.

Lesson Outline:

  1. Students listen to Radiolab’s podcast “American Football.”
  2. Students then read various non fiction offerings from indigenous writers and examine documents and photography provided via Pulitzer Center. For example, students may engage with photography and reporting from Daniella Zalcman’s “Signs of Your Identity,” which examines the lasting impact of government-mandated residential schools for indigenous children in the United States and Canada. They may also read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.
  3. Students use the texts they explored to write their own blackout poem around a chosen and tracked theme from one of these offerings, or more than one if they can prove a connection. (They can.) They create the poems by blacking out and drawing over found text. The texts they choose to black out, or not black out, work with their drawings to communicate the theme(s) they are exploring in their poems.

Students’ finished poems will demonstrate their ability to transfer themes from one medium to another, as well as an ability to analyze a work of art on a deeper level.

Formative Assessment:

  1. Students will demonstrate their ability to make multiple connections between works offered through a variety of mediums.
  2. They will develop thematic statements for three works we have studied.
  3. Then, they will create blackout poetry to demonstrate an ability to analyze and connect, while creating a new product in the style of this popular artform. They will use discarded books.
  4. Finally, they will complete an explanatory paragraph that explains, in depth, their thought processes as they planned their product.
Educator Notes: 

This lesson was created and facilitated by Pamela Henderson-Kirkland, who teaches English at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC.

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