Playing With Poetry

Book Spine Poetry & Blackout Poetry
April is National Poetry Month, but poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea, and not something everyone enjoys reading or writing. So to introduce a new poetry unit I decided to use Book Spine poetry and Blackout poetry as icebreaker activities. Both of these activities are fun, and they are creative enough to encourage students to build freely without being impaired by any insecurities or fear of embarrassment.

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” ― T.S. Eliot

Starting with this quote, we started by talking about what we thought the author meant. What makes a good poem? How many poems have we read lately, and when was the last time we read a poem? Did we have any favourite poems we remembered from elementary school?
Next, I introduced the idea of doing a Book Spine poetry challenge and I showed some examples using keynote and my iPad with Apple TV. We discussed how the book spines would become their prompts and inspiration, but the students would be the creators, or writers. They were instructed to take books and build something that moved them in some way. Notice I said ” them” – I don’t believe you can write great poetry to make others happy. I do believe poetry needs to move you, the writer, and inspire you and make you feel something. If you can do that, then surely your work will impact others.

Book Spine Poetry

Things we discussed:

  • You cannot “fake” good poetry
  • Good poetry comes from the heart
  • Good poetry will have something we can identify with
  • Good poetry will move us and make us feel something


1.) How many books can I use?
Answer: No more than 6 and no less than 3
2.) What kind of mood do you want your poem to create?
Answer: Will it be one of sadness, happiness, love, anger, envy, jealousy, empathy, or silliness, etc.
3.) What kinds of words will you use?
Answer: Choose words that interest you, and words you think sound nice together (flow/contrast, rhyme/no rhyme.)
4.) How will you know when your poem works?
Answer: Read your poem out loud, and have a buddy read it out loud to you. The way a poem sounds when its read it extremely important! Some poetry can almost be sung the words flow so well together.
5.) What if its not quite right?
Answer: Edit what you have built. Try rearranging the book spines, and if they still don’t work then remove one book and try a new one in its place. How does that new book spine change the poem’s meaning? Also, try writing your poem out on paper.

   *Students worked in pairs and were directed to use only fiction books

When everyone had enough time to build a poem, then we displayed the book stacks around the room. Every student typed their poem out and printed it off. Each student reported to me and was given a number to put on their poem. They then placed a copy of their poem in front of their stack of books, but they left the poem unsigned (with their names on the back and a number on the front).This way the author remained anonymous. The students were told to keep hush about their number and which poem was theirs until everyone had voted. Each student was given a rubric to write reflective notes. After they finished reading everyone’s poems and completed the rubric, they could mark off their top 2-3 favorite poems on the rubric. At the end of class we did a quick talley and announced the winners, we also spent a few moments discussing why these poems may have moved so many of us?
Blackout poetry was introduced at the same time the Book Spine was introduced. This way, if some students were finished their Book Spine creations earlier than others then they could start working on their blackout poem.

Blackout Poetry

An Intro video of Blackout Poetry and examples were shown to the students. Below you will find examples of the student’s work, and the short video clip I used on blackout poetry. Our students really enjoyed these poetry activities, and their poetry was amazing! I would love to hear how you are celebrating National Poetry Month – let me know 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “Playing With Poetry

  1. Jamie Camp

    I’m a librarian, and your breakdown of the questions and things to think about with spine poetry was just the nudge I needed to do a spine poetry project with my 5th graders. They LOVED it, and so did their teachers! Thanks for breaking it down like that–it helped make my students’ understanding deeper, and they created some interesting poetry in the library last week!

  2. Pingback: Poetry Programs at Johnston Heights Secondary | Library as Incubator Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s