Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Blackout Poetry: Re-envisioning Writing


K20 Center, Gage Jeter | Published: May 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th, 11th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 90 minutes


This lesson allows students to reflect on and discuss their perceptions about writing. Shifting the focus from writing from scratch to using words already written as a starting place, students engage in reading and creating blackout poems from newspaper articles. Students also practice listening and speaking skills as they read and present their creations. Ultimately, students will determine if and how their perceptions about what writing is changed as a result of this lesson.

Essential Question(s)

What does it mean to be a writer or poet? How can we alter our perceptions of writing by turning ordinary, everyday writing into meaningful poetry? 



Students watch a video about Austin Kleon, a blackout poet, and engage in a Magnetic Statements activity.


Using the I Think/We Think instructional strategy, students read and respond to poet Austin Kleon's blackout poems.


Students create an original blackout poem using a newspaper article as a mentor text.


Students read and present their blackout poem to their classmates.


Students complete a reflective free-write and both a self and peer evaluation.


  • Link to YouTube video

  • Magnetic statements

  • Example Blackout poems

  • Newspapers

  • Sharpies or black markers

  • Writing materials - pen, pencil, paper, etc.

  • Computers/tablets

  • Dry erase pockets and markers (optional)


To begin, show students the “Blackout Poet” YouTube video, an interview with Austin Kleon. Because many students might be unfamiliar with Blackout Poetry, this video will provide some helpful background information.

As students watch, ask them to think about their own personal feelings and conceptions about writing; students should also consider a specific time they struggled with writing.

Kleon discusses writer's block, so after the video students will participate in the instructional strategy Magnetic Statements; this will help uncover their ideas and attitudes about their own struggles with writing and/or a time they felt they had writer's block.

Here's a rundown of how the Magnetic Statements instructional strategy would work in this particular lesson:

  1. Print and post the statements around your classroom.

  2. Give students a few minutes to visit and read each statement.

  3. Students should go to the one statement that most attracts or repels them. Feel free to limit the amount of students allowed to select each statement.

  4. Students should discuss with the other students gathered around their statement reasons why they were either attracted to or repelled by that statement.

  5. Each group should report our why they were attracted to or repelled by the statement.

Kleon's solution to his writing dilemma was to create blackout poetry out of newspaper articles. Students will be doing just that for this lesson.


Using computers, students should work in pairs or in groups of three to research Austin Kleon's blackout poems located on his website. (Alternatively, students can use this website.)

Students should read and respond to at least three poems using the I Think/We Think instructional strategy. Individually, students will respond to a poem and then collaborate with the group. They should fill out both columns of their paper throughout this group activity.

Here's how I Think/We Think would work in this lesson:

  1. Each student should divide a piece of notebook paper into two columns. The left hand column should be title "I Think," and the right hand column should be titled "We Think." (Alternatively, print and copy the attached handout for students to use.)

  2. For each poem, ask students to read and respond to the poem, focusing on poetry elements such as structure, sound devices (alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, etc.), meaning, figurative language, etc. Check out Elements of Poetry on for more detailed information on the elements of poetry if you or your students need a reference.

  3. Give students time to record their thoughts in the "I Think" column. Tell them to leave the "We Think" column alone for now.

  4. Once students have sufficient time to record their thoughts, have them get with a partner or group to share what they recorded.

  5. After sharing out, have the partners/groups record their common understanding of poetry elements from the poem in the "We Think" column.

Once students have read, responded to, and discussed three blackout poems, the teacher should ask for each group to share out with the whole class.


Moving from reading example blackout poems to creating their own poetry, students will peruse newspaper articles and choose one to use as a mentor text for their blackout poem.

Students should model Kleon's procedures of finding an anchor word that resonates with them and grabs their attention. They should then make a box around that word and then move around, trying to find words that connect to that word. Some of Kleon's poems were abstract and some were more literal, so it is up to students to choose the meaning and message of their poem.


As an extension, students should be given sufficient time to read and present their newly created blackout poem to the class. Students should first read their poem aloud and then show their classmates how it looks visually on the paper.


Students' I Think/We Think charts and blackout poems will be evaluated.

Moreover, students will complete both a self and peer evaluation for their group members.

Students will also write a short, reflective quickwrite, discussing if and how their opinions about writing changed from the Magnetic Statements activity to now. Encourage students to revisit those statements to see if their opinions about writers/writing have been altered as a result of participating in this lesson. Be sure students offer justification in their writing as to why or why not. The reflective quickwrite should attempt to answer the essential questions presented at the beginning of the lesson. This can be accomplished by asking students to write about the process of taking a piece of written material and turning it into a poem. Did their creative process change the meaning of what it means to be a poet or writer to them?