Poetry is the aspect of English that I love the most, so it is heartbreaking to hear the groans of students who find it a bore. I wanted to create a lesson that would show them the beauty of poetry and the variety of forms it can take.
After a bit of research and a trawl through Pinterest, I found some interesting ideas on the concept of "found poetry" or "blackout poetry". All you need is a sample of text; it can be a page from a book, a photocopied extract or even a newspaper article. Then ask students to select certain words and black out others to create a new piece of prose. They aren't allowed to add words or change the order; these restrictions give them a clear structure to focus on and work within.
What I really love about this lesson is that students are often surprised by how good their poetry looks and sounds. The task works for all abilities, because pupils select the words that appeal to them.
In the follow-up lesson, I introduce the importance of punctuation for adding meaning to a piece of work. I type up the poetry previously created by students and ask them to add the punctuation that suits their interpretation of the text. I do this using mini-whiteboards, getting pupils to hold up their work so I can select individuals to explain and justify their choices. For example, they might say: "I used a question mark here because I felt like the narrator was questioning the reader."
This leads to a discussion about writers' use of punctuation and how it is just as important as their language choices. With some classes I introduce enjambment and end-stopping, too, depending on the focus of the unit we are studying and pupils' age and ability.
An added bonus is all the beautiful display work you will get for your classroom.
Lowri Scourfield teaches English at a secondary school in Gloucestershire
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