Spine Poetry in the Classroom

spine poetry

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for fun and pain free ways to incorporate poetry into my intervention classes. I’ve realized that Spine Poetry is a great activity for students to try their hand at making a found poem. Using someone else’s words is much less threatening than staring at a blank piece of paper and trying to fill it with your own thoughts and *gasp* feelings.

After trying out Blackout Poetry the previous week, I thought doing Spine Poetry on a Monday would be a great way to get students out of their seats and thinking critically about what they wanted their poems to say. It was an extra bonus when students discovered new books in the classroom library and checked them out, too!

Not sure what Spine Poetry is?

Step 1. Choose book spines that you want to use for your poem.

Step 2. Arrange the spines into a somewhat logical order.

Step 3. Share your poem

If you’re students need to see examples ahead of time to get some ideas, do a quick Google Image Search and voila! TONS of Spine Poetry examples.

Here are some examples from my students. I condensed them into collages, but you will get the idea. Some students work with partners while others chose to work on their own. I think the poems turned out great for their first attempt at something new.

Click on each picture to see the individual poems.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

 photo 5

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5


Blackout Poetry in the Classroom

blackout poets logo

Backstory – Last fall I had an idea revolving around the success I’ve had with blackout poetry in my middle school reading intervention classes. I contacted my Twitter friend Jason Stephenson who also has used blackout poetry in his high school English classes with great results and asked if he’d be interested in co hosting a Twitter wide blackout poetry event. Fast forward to today and we are happy to announce…

 our first Blackout Poetry Week will be held April 7-11th!

Now, to the good stuff…

If you don’t know a lot about blackout poetry, I suggest you check out Jason’s awesome post here. Basically, here’s what you need: enough Sharpies for your entire class, willing students and texts to use for their poems. Anything works, and I have used newspaper and magazine articles, random pages from discarded books and even texts that students have already read.

I like to show the blackout poetry guru Austin Kleon’s work as a starting point before we dive in. This time lapse video captures students’ attention and they are very curious about this activity.

I work with struggling readers and this is something that, with a little practice, they really have success with. Poetry is a tricky temptress – students are drawn to the idea of poetry, but it is scary and elusive and hard to wrap their heads around. Blackout poetry is safe, cool and very, very creative. The visual and text combination is awesome! There’s no doubt that students are definitely doing some higher level thinking and I’ve seen even the toughest critics (aka 7th grade boys) dive in. Truth be told, the sharpies don’t hurt either.

Here are some examples of some blackout poems from last spring:






This is my personal favorite. Eighth graders had recently finished reading a short story version of Flowers for Algernon and Noah pretty much captured the entire beginning of the book with his poem! Love it!

Other Ideas…

  • I’d really like to copy various sections of a read aloud or a text that students have all read in their ELA class and have them create a series of blackout poems that capture the mood, actions or development of a particular character throughout the book.
  • Old Encyclopedias would be an interesting text to use too. It would be fun to use pages containing outdated information and see what students come up with to use for their poems.
  • Younger students will definitely enjoy blackout poetry and this would be a great way to celebrate learning new words.
  • Another cool idea for older students would be to use banned books for this activity!
  • I’d also like to have students get a little more creative with the style of their poems and create a picture or design that fit with the subject or emotions of the subject.

Kind of like these…

blackout-poetry angela wallace

Angela Watson, http://goo.gl/fIOzD

pirates black out poem

Tyler Ducas, http://goo.gl/sVA5R9

tragedy black out poem

Sue Olson, http://suzenart.blogspot.com/

Aren’t these amazing? Jason and I hope you’ll join us in April for Blackout Poetry week. Follow Blackout Poets on Twitter for more examples you can share with your students and more updates and reminders about this worldwide event!