Find what you need fast!  Type in your keyword and search.

Historical Letters Blackout Poetry

Context for this Lesson




  • What motivated U.S. Grant to make Thanksgiving a holiday?
  • Why weren’t native people mentioned in the founding of Thanksgiving as a holiday?

(4)  Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Poetry. Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of poetry and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to explain how the structural elements of poetry (e.g., rhyme, meter, stanzas, line breaks) relate to form (e.g., lyrical poetry, free verse).

(16)  Writing/Literary Texts. Students write literary texts to express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and ideas. Students are expected to:
      (B)  write poems that convey sensory details using the conventions of poetry (e.g., rhyme, meter, patterns of verse).



Ask participants to stand in a circle.  Explain that you are going to build a machine together.  One participant steps into the middle of the circle.  He/she creates a simple, repeatable motion and sound.  One by one, participants add onto the machine.  Ask participants to think of how they may connect their movements to the other participants’.  Once the machine is complete, or when all students have added, you may speed up and/or slow down the machine.


  • How would you describe our machine?


  • What do you think this machine produces?
  • Why?


  • How is this machine related to writing?

TRANSITION: “Most of the time when we write, it’s like building that machine.  You add elements and words to your paper/document to build a story or poem.  Today we’re going to do the opposite.  Instead of adding words, we’re going to be taking them away- we’re going to turn the letter we read into poetry.”



Participants are in their chairs, do 1-2 practice rounds in order just saying numbers. The facilitator shares the complex text with the participants and describes the P2P process. The first time around, each participant will read the text aloud and stop when they arrive at a punctuation mark (-- : ; , . ! ?). Then, the next participant in the circle begins to read. This may mean that participants read only one word, e.g., car, or an entire sentence. The facilitator should make sure that everyone in the circle gets an opportunity to read—even if it means rereading part of the text from the beginning. After everyone has participated in P2P once, the process is repeated but this time the facilitator invites the participants to say, “Stop!” if there is a word that is confusing or not understood. The facilitator guides a dialogue to make sense among the participants about the meaning of the word or phrase. For the third round, the facilitator invites participants to stand, walk and read the text out loud together. Now, when the participants come to a punctuation mark, they change the direction of their walking. Once everyone has completed reading/walking the passage, the facilitator guides a dialogue about possible meanings of the full text.


  • What did you notice about the text and yourself during this activity?
  • At what points in the text were you turning and at what points were you walking straight? How might that inform our understanding of this text?
  • How does our understanding of this text shape or shift our larger inquiry?

Possible Side-Coaching:

  • Start by walking slowly so we don’t bump in o one another. Please be aware of other bodies as you shift directions; we must play safely and respectfully of other bodies in space.

SHARING INFORMATION: Projection of Blackout Poem 8 MIN

We are going to create our own “Blackout Poems” in the style of Austin Kleon.  Here on our projector is one of his poems.   Show “Creativity is Subtraction” first, then “Egyptians”, finally “Creativity is Subtraction”

  • What do you see?
  • What techniques does he use to construct these poems?
  • Are there words we could pull out of the article that we are working with?

Project article and circle words.  Work with just one paragraph, rather than the entire article. Model circling words with a pencil, then crossing out the words with pencil and then finishing with a black marker.


Participants work with instructors to circle keywords to form blackout poems from text.


  • What did we do today?
  • What did you learn about Thanksgiving?
  • How does this perspective on Thanksgiving relate to what you’ve heard/know about the holiday?
  • How does it relate to your studies of native cultures?