Monday, June 2, 2014

Black Out Poetry

Back in this post I shared the ideas for helping kids see God at work in their lives through reflective narrative writing.  My students wrote five narratives this year as part of that project, and also created a corresponding art project to illustrate their writing.  This is one of those five art projects, and it matched with this topic:
o   Seeing God in the Hard Times: Write a story about something hard that has happened in your life and how God was there to help you.

This was an interesting essay to work with the kids on.  I think that too often we avoid tough subjects with kids, thinking that we don't need to open up about sadness or fear, believing that they can't handle it or don't need to talk about it.  However, kids experience hard things all of the time, and writing or art can be a perfect way for them to share the feelings that they may be experiencing.

I wasn't quite sure what I would get when I asked the kids to write about something tough, but I got some introspective and meaningful essays on moving away, the death of a family member, the tornado that hit our town in 2013, bullying, and more.  I knew that the art we created as a companion for the essays would also need to be symbolic of the emotions they shared in their writing.

So, we created black out poetry.  I printed an extra copy of each of the students' actual essays.  They were challenged to convey the emotion of their essay while blacking out most of the actual words on the copy.  They were only allowed to use black pen or black marker as their medium.  The result was suppose to look very scribbled/doodled.

Some idea for how to "black out" the writing:
  • create an illustration on top of the writing
  • scribble over most of the words, leaving only a few meaningful words white and visible
  • create large bubble letters spelling out a theme of your writing.  Leave the inside of the words white and black out everything around them
  • black out areas not just scribbling randomly, but by creating patterns of dots, lines, etc.
Here are a few examples:
Essay about having to move to a new home, using the first three the techniques described above.

Another essay about moving, using some creative doodling/scribbling in the background.
Finding the theme and message of hope in this essay.

Using scribbling to illustrate the topic of this essay, the Pekin tornado in 2013.
This was my favorite of the five themed art projects that we created.  It was the most meaningful and the one that the students used as tool to open up.  Many of the teachers in the building looked at them while on display and remarked on the students' honesty, creativity, and introspection.  Give this idea a try yourself!  You could even do the same thing on something that the students have not written themselves, like old book pages.

For more info and resources about our Write Your Story on My Heart project, click here:


  1. We call this technique page poetry. I allow my students to utilize color and whatever media they choose: crayon, colored pencil, melted wax (yes, one of my eighth graders did this). I give them a page from an old, well-loved book that has seen much better days and off they go. I blogged about it here

    and here

    I really like how you are able to incorporate our faith into so many of your content area activities. I find this a challenge and have received some great inspiration from your ideas!


    1. Angela, thanks for sharing how you have used a similar technique in different ways! We also were in the middle of a poetry unit when this art project was completed, so it was good to introduce them to yet another form of poetry. Thanks for sharing and reading!