5th grade Blackout Poetry, Zentangled Poetry

I’ve been a fan of Austin Kleon’s Blackout Poetry for a while.  I’ve taught a couple of Zentangle lessons, but wanted to take it further.  I heard about Zentangled Blackout Poetry, and it seemed like the perfect fit.


This was the first time I’ve taught anything so writing-based as part of an art project.  I introduced the student artists to Austin Kleon, and we watched his book trailer.  I thought I would have to explain what a book trailer was, but I was so impressed that not only did the 5th grade artists know what book trailers were, but they had made their own in 3rd grade.  Way to go McNeil 3rd grade teachers!  (They’re in different grades now, but they taught 3rd grade to this set of 5th graders.)


I explained that our blackout poetry would have at least a subject and a verb.  This part was so much harder than I thought it would be!  I made an anchor chart of what a noun is (person, place, thing or idea) and added examples of each.  Also on the anchor chart was what a verb is (physical action like swimming, mental action like thinking or guessing, or a state of being like existing or appearing.)  This chart stayed up until we finished our blackout poetry.


I explained how the blackout poet takes a text (printed web page, a page from THEIR OWN book, a copied page of a book, etc.) and draws a box around the subject, the verb, and “the rest of the sentence” (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns, etc.).  That way, your brand new poem is created from parts of the text.


It takes a little practice reading Blackout Poetry, so the volunteer readers took turns reading various published Blackout Poems from the SmartBoard.  The key is to read left to right, just like normal text, but only going down one line each time.  The pattern is kind of zigzag instead of a straight line, but after some practice, they got it!


Then, instead of blacking out the extra text, we created shaped and Zentangled inside the shapes.  One class experimented and did traditional Blackout Poetry in addition to the Zentangled Blackout Poetry, and it came out great.


For example, this 5th grade artist poet created, “The heavens brought you here on expected with a part in  l  i  f  e.”  Wow!

I copied about 7 pages from Spy Camp, and I passed out a different pages to the students.  They created their word-boxed sentences, brought them to me to double check, then drew Zentangle patterns to their poetry.  Then they highlighted their poetry with any highlighter they chose.


If I teach this again, I’m going to approach the 5th grade ELAR teachers to see if this could fit into their teaching.  Then, once their expertise has guided the students to a strong poem, I could take it from there with the Zentangling and Blackout Poetry.  🙂

(I’m not sure why the black tones in these are off a little, but they look much better in person.)



Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s