When it comes to creative writing ideas, found poetry allows students to explore the power of individual words, create striking images and capture the essence of a larger piece of writing. This poetry lesson can work well as an introduction to a poetry unit or as party of a creative writing class. It is also ideal as a fun, yet educational, standalone activity on a day with distractions from more academic concerns, such as Homecoming Friday or the last day before spring break.
Method One – Cut and Paste
Check with the school media specialist for out-of-date issues, or ask students to bring in some from home. Although you should screen them for inappropriate content, their topic doesn’t matter, as students are looking for words, not pictures for a thematic collage or other visual assignment.
Scissors to cut out words
Plain sheets of paper for assembling the poems
Glue or tape to affix words to the paper
If you use glue, a glue stick or rubber cement is best for small pieces of paper.
Faced with an assortment of magazines, students should find words that catch their attention, cut them out, and use them to assemble a poem. Their "writing" should have a focus and work towards creating a specific image or impression. However, within this framework, encourage students to really play with the words.
When creating found poetry, students should think about not only the words, but also their relative size. A large word from an advertisement can have more impact than a small word cut from an article. The placement of the cutouts on the page is also an important way to add meaning to a poem. Words running together will create a different feeling than one isolated word.
Allow students the opportunity to share their creations with the class. Display completed poems around the classroom.
Method Two – Crossing Out
This form of found poetry starts with a short piece of writing. You can choose a single passage from a book or short story and hand out copies to all of the students. Alternately, you can ask students to select their own small pieces of a work you’re currently studying. You can also pass out magazines so that students can work with a larger selection of articles.
Once students are faced with a short passage, they should then cross out words until only the most important thoughts and images remain. Encourage them to really think about their choices. Why do those words matter to the message of the text? They should then transcribe their chosen words onto a piece of paper, deciding on appropriate line breaks and punctuation.
If students are working from the same text, ask them to share their poems and discuss why they chose the words they did. This will allow them to consider different interpretations of the selection and broaden their understanding of the reading.
No matter how you choose to use found poetry in your classroom, the important thing is to let the students have fun with language.