Blackout Poetry and Summarizing

summaryI taught a lesson on summarizing text in my class yesterday. We did it a pretty traditional way using a great program my fourth grade team purchased that focuses on differentiating the teaching of the reading comprehension strategies.  (Comprehension Strategies Kit by Sundance)

The class and I looked at a short fictional text and started to activate our prior knowledge as we took a picture and text walk and made connections to what we observed. Then I read the text aloud once and the second time through, we paused to put a box around the characters, to circle important information about the setting and underline the major events in the story. We jotted down our findings in a graphic organizer and finally, wrote a summary of the text.

There – a great whole class intro lesson to summarizing. But before I sent them off to work in partners, I showed them a helpful handout provided by the program: a checklist of what you need to remember about summarizing.

Now, I’m all for short and sweet and helping students to remember things. As much as I do like these handouts, it can be a bit overwhelming, so the class and I went through each line and I asked them to choose only one or two words from each line to remember.

Instead of “decide on what’s important and what’s not important in the story,” some students circled “decide” or “important.” For “choose the most important events from the story,” most of us chose to circle, “most important.” And so on…

When we were done, I read the words I had circled on my paper and it sounded like poetry!

most important
describe plot
characters, setting
own words

Some excited students started clapping. (Gotta love those kids!)

That’s when it hit me. I thought I would really do something drastic and show the kids blackout poetry! I asked a student to get me a think, black sharpie and proceeded to black out all the words I did not circle. Some of the kids gasped as I crossed out many of the written words, but when I was done, they were all pretty impressed.

blackoutBefore I was even done reading my black out poem, students were already getting up to get a black marker of their own or scribbling over words with their pencils. It was kind of exciting. They were happily creating their own black out poem about summarizing.

Then it started to strike them: it was a summary about summarizing.

Point made.
Through poetry.

It was overtime for us and we needed to move onto our writing project, but I can guarantee that many students will be happy to recite their summary black out poem to start our reading lesson tomorrow.


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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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