Found Poems: A Generative Pathway to Meaningful Textual Transactions– NVWP Summer ISI – Day 7

Welcome to the Northern Virginia Writing Project’s 2016 Invitational Summer Institute! I’ll be blogging the demonstration lessons and the various activities occurring during our four-week duration. Find out more about the NVWP and the National Writing Project.

lead.PNGAnna Foster is now going to take us through a demonstration lesson on the power of found poetry.

Quickwrite: How do you feel about teaching poetry to students?

I’ve written about this before, but poetry isn’t my favorite. I’m a maximalist. I want long sentences, massive paragraphs, and all-encompassing narrative arcs. I like to dive into a world that has its own sense of gravity and immutable rules. While poetry might have that, it doesn’t for me. It’s just too short. 

But I love teaching it. I spent the final weeks of the school year working with students on a variety of poems. Reading them, listening to them, annotating them, writing them. Poetry allows a slightly easier entry into literacy than writing a short story or a memoir. 

We share out. An ESOL teacher talks about how using poetry with beginning language learners can be difficult. But once the students get that basic language down, she continues, it becomes a function of liberation. Someone else mentions how often we turn to what Paul Thomas calls the literary technique hunt. We use it for analysis more than writing, someone says. While there is positivity in the room, there’s also trepidation.


Anna says that teachers can (and should be!) infusing every unit with poetry (vs. having a specific poetry unit). Poetry lends itself to essentially every literacy related skill. Especially, she says, found poetry.

What is found poetry?


The fact that students don’t have to start from scratch is a big advantage to found poetry. Modern forms of found poetry include blackout poetry, centos, and cut and paste poems. Examples are below. Found poems allow students to become readers, writers, and artists.

Anna runs us through a minilesson. As we listen to Clint Smith’s well-known TED Talk we’re going to keep track of any lines, words, or phrases that we enjoy. If you haven’t heard it, listen to it now. It’s that good. The minilesson corresponds with some awesome essential questions such as: How can language be powerful? How can silence be powerful? We watch the TED Talk and write.

Normally she would have us discuss the clip. For the sake of time we’re going to start out by generating a class list. We choose three of our selections to speak out. A listing of some of our selections are below:

-to fill those spaces
-to recognize them
-to name them
-tell your truth
-I still had to figure out my own
-silence is the residue of fear
-an affirmation that he was worth seeing
-will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision
-gut-wrench guillotine your tongue
-air retreating from your chest because it doesn’t feel safe in your lungs
-he was worth seeing
-your battles have already picked you
-read, write, speak your truth
-tucked under my tongue

We talk a little bit about why we chose the lines we chose. Rearrange, position language differently, shape it, make it your own. You can have students enter the words into Word Mover, a free website (and app) that allows you to easily manipulate words on a screen. Anna shows us her own creative process and encourages us to talk with students about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This is a great place to talk about rhetorical purpose in writing.

Here’s what mine looks like after a few minutes of tinkering. Every phrase comes from Clint’s TED Talk.

Word Mover.PNG

She mentions how found poetry can be a cool way to think about research (gathering qualitative research and then remixing it into found poems) as well as social justice (since the content of found poems pulls from the texts found in the ‘real world). We end by viewing some student samples of found poems from Anna’s classes. Great lesson and presentation!



  1. Blue Cereal

    A Generative Pathway to…?

    Man, you ELA people like big words 😉

    On Jul 20, 2016 11:04 AM, “Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes” wrote:

    > Peter Anderson posted: “Welcome to the Northern Virginia Writing Project’s > 2016 Invitational Summer Institute! I’ll be blogging the demonstration > lessons and the various activities occurring during our four-week duration. > Find out more about the NVWP and the National Writing Pro” >

    Liked by 1 person

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