Blackout Poetry

A couple of days ago, I talked to our school librarian about the discarded books that we had in the library. Despite teachers’ and librarians’ honorable efforts to prolong their existence, there comes a point in the life of every classroom or library book when it is time to say goodbye. Where do the good books go after they are discarded? If you are like me, discarding a valued member of school into a trash bin is not an option. Once the covers are torn and entire chapters are missing, creating a blackout poems to honour the memory of old, worn-out books, is a thing to do.

Blackout poems can be created using the pages of old books or even articles from old newspapers. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to find newspapers in English here, in El Salvador, so it was a good thing that we had some old books. Using a marker and an existing text, a blackout poet isolates and then pieces together single words or phrases from the text to create a masterpiece. It’s a great opportunity for your students to show their creativity and feel more confident with creating their own poems as the words are already on the page; students just need to find the right words for their poem.


Ana Sofia, grade 6

Here are simple steps to create a blackout poem.

Step 1. Before reading the page completely, scan it. Keep an eye for an anchor words (words that stand out because they are packed with meaning and significance). It’s important to find anchor words as they may help you with imagining the possible themes and topics of your poem.

Step 2. Read the entire page. Use a pencil to circle any words that you can connect with the anchor word.



Fabiola, grade 6


Step 3. Select words and piece them together to create the lines of a poem. You can eliminate parts of words, especially any endings. Remember to erase the circles around any words you will not be using.

Step 4. Add an illustration or design to the page of text. This illustration can relate to the main idea or message of your poem. Be careful not to draw over the words that you have selected for your final poem.



Marco, grade 6


Students really love this project. Moreover, it’s a great way to infuse visual art into poetry in order to enhance the meaning of a poem. Admittedly, some pages of text work better than others. As you can tell from the pictures above, I tried this activity in grade 6. This will be a nice activity for both middle school and high school students. It could be a nice introduction to poetry, a culmination of the unit, or a good activity for the National Poetry Month.

For more ideas, check my Pinterest board. Use THIS LINK to check out the presentation with the instructions for students.


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