115: 5 Creative Digital Poetry Activities



I know poetry can be a sensitive subject. Maybe you love it and it's tough to see how many students arrive in your classroom already anti-poetry. Maybe you're pretty lukewarm, and you look forward to teaching it each year like you look forward to February slush. Maybe you had a perfect way to teach it, and now you're trying to figure out how on earth to move all your awesome activities online due to, you know, global pandemic.


I get it. And I'm pretty excited for you to read this post. Frankly, there is not one activity I'm about to share with you that I don't LOVE. So let's do this! 

You can listen in on the player below, or on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, Blubrry, or Spotify. Or simply read on for some top takeaways.



#1 Digital Poetry Tiles for "Magnetic Poetry"


Who doesn't love magnetic poetry? It's so fun to push those little rectangles around, not knowing what will come about as you mix and match your mood with the tiles. 


I was thinking sadly this year that kids wouldn't really be able to play with magnetic poetry on anyone's classroom walls (because who is going to sanitize those tiny little magnets?) when I saw a few digital versions floating around the internet and became inspired to try it. And it's SO EASY! AND SO FUN!



On a Google slide, students can simply drag and drop tiles around to create a poem, just like they would on a magnet board on your wall. They can copy and paste tiles they want more of, or add white rectangle shapes and text boxes for any new words they want to create. 




I created this gratitude kit with Thanksgiving in mind, but really you could use it anytime.



 
 


And this education-themed kit is the first thing I'll be giving away during Camp Creative next week.  (Are you in yet?


I've heard from teacher after teacher that students really enjoy spending a class period creating these poems, and that it helps unlock their creativity. Those little tiles provide that bit of creative constraint, just what some students need in a writing workshop if they are feeling intimidated. 


#2 Blackout Poetry using Texts from the Public Domain + Digital Illustrations


Blackout poetry is something you can still have kids do on paper, if they're home and have access to a newspaper, magazine, or old book. But the digital option is a lot of fun too! I've created a little resource to make it easy for you. 


There are plenty of classic texts available as PDFs online that you can screenshot for kids to use for blackout poetry. I've grabbed pages from Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, The Great Gatsby, and 1984 for your resource and dropped them as the backgrounds on a Google Slide deck. (Make your copy here). 




Students can choose the page they like best, then read it through in search of words that strike them. Normally they'd highlight those with a light pencil circle, but they can use a little rectangle in slides. Their next step is to put those words down onto paper or a doc and think about whether they can string them together to make meaning. They will end up scrapping some of the words, and needing some connector words in between others, which they can go back to the page and search for, adding rectangles. 


Once they've got a basic poem, they can use black rectangle shapes to black out everything on the page but their poem, just like they would do with Sharpie for a blackout poem. Using the shortcut for "duplicate" (command + D) makes this waaaaaaay faster.


If they were working on paper, they might add some doodles or drawings as they blacked out the remaining text. That's harder to achieve in Slides! I tried Jamboard for this but the end result was not very good. So I turned to my usual go-to, the free online design tool, Canva. Inside Canva, I created a few small designs with black backgrounds that I could insert into my poem. Students could do this, or they could drop in small cartoons or photographs from the web. 






Here is the end result I came up with as an example. 


The poem reads:

The imagination train,

I understand.

You question,

I explain. 




Quite a change from its original form as a page from Anne of Green Gables, but definitely related! 


#3 Digital Book Spine Poetry


The other day on Instagram I shared some of Jane Mount's amazing artwork, in the form of notecards which are hard for me to send, I love them so much. She illustrates sets of books stacked up around some theme - like an incredible collection of cookbooks, the best recent YA, a collection of epic fantasy novels, etc. And a wonderful fellow educator on Insta, Karen, messaged me to say maybe Jane's work could provide a springboard for a digital book spine poetry activity! My wheels started turning immediately. 




For this activity, students check out a slide COVERED in books, then pull the ones they want to turn into a poem to the margin and stack them up. Once they've created one or two poems, they can delete the other books on the slide and pull theirs in to create poems. From there I'd suggest having them save them as PNGs and drop them into a collaborative class deck so everyone can view everyone else's, gallery style.


You can grab your copy of the free templates for this activity here. 


#4 Spoken Word Poetry Clips

These days I'd recommend that ANY poetry unit have spoken word video clips in it, but they're extra perfect when you're teaching online! There are so many wonderful pieces just waiting for your students out there. You could kick off each day of a poetry unit by watching a spoken word clip, or do a series of writing workshops where you share a clip and then give a related prompt. Or you could build up toward a virtual poetry slam or Jam, watching, scoring, debating, discussing, and writing spoken word pieces throughout your poetry unit and eventually having kids perform by submitting videos of their pieces. 


Here are some resources to help you get started:



#5 I am From Poems 


I've shared here before about why I think "I am From" poems are an incredible poetry option! They're one of my favorite poetry workshop go-tos, because I've really never known them to fail. Students can follow the brainstorming templates and produce a beautiful "I am From..." poem. 


If you've never heard of this workshop before, step right over to this blog post and take it all in. 


If you have, then let me share how to take it digital. Once your students have created their "I am From" poems, have them publish them using one of these fun templates, save their poem as a PNG image, and then share it back to the class. They might read it on Flipgrid, post it to a digital gallery, or email it to you so you can print it and put it up to greet the class with a beautiful wall of identity poetry when everyone finally returns. 




The other fun thing you could do with this as a digital assignment is to have students create an image gallery along the margins of their poem in Slides. Photos from their childhoods would make a beautiful addition to the piece, as would illustrations they create digitally or on paper and then photograph. 


OK, that's a wrap! I hope you enjoy these digital poetry activities with your students. And don't forget to sign up for Camp Creative! Next week the pod will be on vacation for Christmas, but you'll find a steady stream of creative activities waiting for you inside our camp. 


Want to save these ideas for later? Pin them! 




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  3. Hi Betsy! I listened to this episode twice. In other words, I am going to use all these ideas! I do want to suggest one thing, in case it's helpful. In trying out the blackout poems, I took another approach: I copied and pasted a page of a favorite novel from my kindle onto a blank google document. Then I went through and highlighted the words/ phrases I wanted to use for my poem; finally I highlighted the rest of the text that wasn't part of my poem in black, so that it would disappear. If students have access to texts that are "copy and paste-able," this method might be easier than creating black rectangles on an image of the text/ screenshot? The downside to my approach is that it doesn't lend to visual doodling/ decoration as well. But I suppose you could save the google document as a pdf or screen shot your poem on the google doc, then create images on it?

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