If you have been tracking my twitter and pinterest feeds lately, you’ve noticed I’ve been doing a lot of Blackout Poetry. What is Blackout Poetry you ask? author, cartoonist and web designer Austin Kleon, who hit on the technique to overcome a severe case of writer’s block. Working with discarded copies of “The New York Times,” Kleon viewed the results as little more than an inspired writing exercise as he stated in a June 2010 interview with Austin University’s student newspaper, “The Daily Texan.” Popular response to the blackout poems that he posted on his blog led to the April 2010 release of his first book, “Newspaper Blackout,” in which he further expounded on the style. Blackout poets like Kleon search for striking words or images in daily newspapers, which they emphasize by crossing out the unneeded text with a permanent marker, according to guidelines posted on the Newspaper Blackout website.
In the last five years, the style has really grown into both schools and writing workshops so much there is even “Blackout Day” where students and professionals create their own poems from old newspapers, books and old writing assignments to create these amazing pieces of poetry. The concept isn’t really new, if anyone remembers watching old and current spy series, you see the usual blackout of words in redacted files. Redaction, in fact is the process of editing text for publication in which certain words are edited or taken out to finish a type of literature or text. Last year I was doing my usual Kickstarter viewing and I stumbled on The Stray by Vito Delsante and Sean Izaakse. Something that really jumped out to me was the profile on The Stray. Where his profile had certain words redacted to keep from spoiling the story but in my opinion really made me more interested in the characters history.
An lesson I’m doing with my 5th graders this year is that they are to create their own super hero or super villain. They create the design and profile for the character in Pages and then upload it into Google Drive and shared with the rest of the class. Once there, students will go at random blacking out certain words in the profile making a Blackout Poem on their characters. Student use Paper by 53 to create their characters and then save it into their camera rolls before uploading it on the profile set up in Pages before the final export to Google Drive. Using the highlight feature, students can black out certain words with just a few taps of their iPad. This can be easily adapted for both Android and with Chromebooks with using Google Drawing instead.
However, it doesn’t stop there. For some of my more advanced learners, we take can using Explain Everything to do an animation of the creation of the Blackout Poem by exporting from Pages to Explain Everything and create a screen cast of the process between students they can upload and download through Google Drive or Box or Dropbox. The final step is to have the original creator of the character read their character’s Blackout Poem using Chatterpix and have a final assembly in iMovie that shows the creation process from beginning to end. Its great for interactive creation and learning. Have fun with this and if you have any questions, please contract me. Happy writing.