Recently I launched the newest Year 8 English project called Cultural Poetry. I gradually introduced the boys to the idea of poetry in Week 7 of last term when I organised for slam poet Luka Lesson to run a workshop and perform some of his exciting, innovative and very engaging spoken word poetry. The boys enjoyed it so much that they were lining up out the door to get his autograph! Luka engaged the boys for 80 minutes with his unique poetry- even organising a mini poetry slam for the boys to write and perform their own poems! Stereotypically, teenage boys are not the most receptive people to the traditional idea of poetry. The idea was to approach the concept of poetry from a completely different perspective that would inspire the students and open their minds.
Last week, we finally launched the Cultural Poetry project. I designed the Entry Event to spark curiosity and get students to immediately start thinking creatively. Instead of asking the students to watch a video and lead a class discussion (which can also be an effective entry event), I spent my holidays trying to source suitable novels to rip up. That’s right… I destroyed books. There were very mixed reactions to this idea from the boys- some cheered in jubilation and some audibly gasped in horror as I tore the pages out. This was all part of the fun and mystery of the entry event and will surely be an activity that sticks in their minds for years to come. I got the idea when I stumbled upon Austin Kleon’s blog– the original creator of blackout poetry.
The first part of the entry event was playing this video: Blackout Poetry
“Blackout poetry” is poetry made by redacting the words in a text, leaving behind only a few choice words to make a poem.
The students were then challenged to create their own blackout poems using a random page from the novel I had torn apart. They were encouraged to use any poetic techniques they already knew of such as alliteration, similes, imagery and metaphors. This was effective in activating prior student knowledge. Art supplies including watercolours and paintbrushes were kindly organised and the boys were further challenged to use some of the visual literacy skills they had learnt in the previous project to create a visual representation of their poem on the page as well. What they came up with was incredible.
Once the whole grade completed their poems, a display was created in the school library to highlight excellent student work and encourage a sense of ownership over their poetry! It was a task that engaged students and generated student questioning and curiosity in other forms of poetry and what they will be studying for the remainder of the project.