Black out poems…

Here is a neat recipe for an alternative assessment.  We are working on industrialization and Mill Girls leading up to our poetry slam.

After a couple of days of research we took three books that the library wanted to get rid of.

black out poem
We ripped out all of the pages…they loved ripping out the pages.

black out poem
And then the kids “wrote” poems that summarized the life of a mill girl.  I found that in most cases, the student’s ability matched how many words were blacked-out.  Some came back with only 5-10 words not blacked-out, but it matched what I thought the student’s ability was.  This is harder than it seems!

black out poem
The kids “black-out” all the words they don’t want, and obviously leave the words that will make-up their poem unmarked.  Each one took about 10 minutes.

black out poem
The kids read them afterwards and explained why they “wrote” what they did.

black out poem
After collecting some and reading them myself, having the kids read and interpret is necessary.  Many were very symbolic, and how you read them can easily change the meaning of what is left on the page.

black out poem


While they were working on these, that really cool “I am thinking so hard I can’t even make a sound silence” came over the room.




  1. I am looking forward to trying this with an inquiry we are doing with our grade 4 students. We are only just starting but I am thinking about getting books that are focused on this subject and photocopying only some of the pages (maybe student selected) to use.

  2. If you can find a real book, it really adds an magical element to the assignment.

    I think part of the “coolness” factor of this is using a book that has nothing to do with the topic. It makes it more poetic. Otherwise kids will be crossing out words and creating a summary of the page.

  3. I did find that you really do have to think. I pictured steam coming out of my ears! I’d like to try it with a page from a book… if someone else can rip them out for me! 😉 Thank you for sharing your students’ poetry, Paul!

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