Friday, February 27, 2015

Remixing Writing

It is one of my students' favorite daily writing prompts. Mine, too. Yesterday I came into class with a stack of newspapers in hand. Before the bell rang, I walked around the room handing out a section of the paper to each student. I got some quizzical looks. We usually begin each class writing in our writer's notebooks. Are we going to start today with reading? Nope. We're started the day by remixing the newspaper.

I shared Austin Kleon's blackout poetry with students, and you could hear a buzz move throughout the room. They didn't want to wait for me to finish explaining our writing task. They wanted to jump right in. And they did!

After they spent some time carefully considering their word choices and marking out meaning, we spent some time sharing our process. How did students begin the task of making something new from another person's words? Some began with a single word, plucking the most important word from an article, letting it form the heart of the blackout poem, and then finding the words to connect with that idea throughout the rest of the article.  Others started with a pencil, circling whatever words first intrigued them and let the meaning of the piece arise naturally from the work. Still others began with an idea in mind, and like a hunter, stalked the article for the necessary words.  And it was in this discussion on how we went about the task of making meaning that we were able to reflect on the value of having different perspectives, different approaches to creating meaning.

There is so much value in creating blackout poetry with students. Not only do students have the opportunity to step outside their own writing by working with someone else's words, but also blackout poetry begs the creator to take a different perspective on writing in carefully considering both the original writer's words as well as the process by which writers create. And it's a heck of a lot of fun, too!
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