Last week, I added a new item to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself say to my child: “Freddy, you can use a permanent marker to black out the page in that book.”
That’s right. When I researched fun ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, I stumbled across blackout poetry. We decided to give it a try!
Poetry is tricky. Most kids think it’s hard or boring. You can get your kids to love poetry by making it a fun experience. Teach them how to make blackout poetry!
What is Blackout Poetry?
Blackout poetry is when a writer takes a marker (usually black; hence the name “blackout poetry”) to an already established text like a newspaper or the page of a book and starts crossing out and blackening words until a new poem is formed.
Austin Kleon has made a career out of creating blackout poetry from newspapers. See some of his work here. When he shared his work online, this style of poetry gained massive popularity! Offbeat Poetry keeps a fascinating catalog of redacted poetry as well.
Is this something you can do with your children? Can you make your own original blackout poetry?
I did! My poem isn’t perfect. It won’t win any awards. But I enjoyed the process. That’s what’s important!
This is a fun way to get excited about poetry. You can use this activity to spark creativity.
Materials You’ll Need to Make Your Poetry
How to Make Blackout Poetry
Step 1: Find an old newspaper or book.
Real talk…newspapers are fossils. Everything has moved online. Despite this, we still get free local newspapers delivered to our doorstep. We use them for our blackout poetry! You can use an old newspaper or go online and print out some text.
Years ago, my mother gave me an XL storage tub full of books from my childhood. After my four children read through most of them, they fell apart due to age. We use the pages from these old books for our poetry projects.
If you have any old books lying around, repurpose them into poetry pages. By repurposing, I mean remove the pages from the binding using a paper cutter.
Step 2: Once you pick the page you want to use for your blackout poetry, jot down interesting or fun words you find on a separate piece of paper.
Before you or your child start blackening out the page, make a list of interesting words you might want to keep for your own poem. Do this on a separate piece of paper.
Step 3: Decide which words you want to keep for your own poem.
Pick the best words from the list you created. Cross off and eliminate words you don’t want to use in your blackout poem. If it helps, read your word list aloud to determine the flow.
Step 4: Go back to your page of text and draw boxes around the words you plan to keep.
Use a pencil for this! That way, if you make a mistake, you can erase it! Make your boxes bigger than they need to be to allow for errors.
Step 5: Go over your pencil marks with a fine tip permanent marker.
We made the mistake of using a large tip (or king-size) permanent marker on our first attempt at creating blackout poetry, and we experienced lots of mistakes where our markers slipped and came too close to the words we wanted to keep.
Step 6: Erase your pencil marks.
Step 7: Use a ruler to create an outline or guide around the entire text and go over it with king size permanent marker.
Make a big rectangle (see image below). This makes it easier to black out large chunks of the page without it looking too sloppy. Do it in pencil first, and then go over it with a permanent marker.
step 8: Use a large tip permanent marker to create your black-out all of the text you didn’t box out.
Use a large tip permanent marker to create your black-out all of the text you didn’t box out. Color all the white space as well.
Advanced tip: young artists can use different colors or add an image or drawing that relates to the poem on the page as well. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are our favorite for this!
Step 9: Admire your new blackout poetry!
That’s it! You’ve learned how to make blackout poetry. Hang up your new piece of art on a bulletin board, or decorate your wall with this unique work.
TIME-LAPSE EXAMPLE OF BLACKOUT POETRY
You can use the above instructions as part of an at-home poetry lesson. This is a simple way to get your children interested in poetry outside of school! Blackout poems can be as easy or as difficult as you make them.
Poetry encourages higher-order thinking skills, abstract thinking skills, and communication skills. Look at this art form as a doorway into literacy, as it is as powerful as it is musical.
For another creative activity to try, check out my post on Chain Stories.
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