Thursday, October 31, 2013

Found Poetry Becomes Art

Due to Parent Conferences this week and next week I have some time off from school, so I thought, "What better use of my time than to audition a few art projects?" In the last couple of months I have seen quite a few examples of "found poetry art" on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a try. I used to do a different version of Found Poetry, where elementary students would cut out words from a page of text and glue them down to create a new idea as a collage poem. But I had never made art out of selected words right on the original page of text. I am planning to do this with a class of 5th graders in January, so I wanted to be sure that I discovered the pitfalls before taking the idea into the classroom!!

The example above started out as a discarded science text from our school library. I was a bit doubtful that a science book would work for this, but I was amazed at the words I found as I scanned the pages. Our librarian will be saving me fiction discards that we can recycle, but I think I will ask her to broaden her search, since the science book worked just fine.

I didn't anticipate how challenging this experience would be. First, I scanned the page, looking for interesting words that might go together (trying to disassociate from the meaning of the actual text). My goal was to create a new idea, unrelated to the original sentences. This is a terrific opportunity to integrate Language Arts and a discussion of colorful adjectives and verbs. It's tricky -- try it!!!

Once I found some words I thought might work,  I underlined them using pencil (in case I wanted to change my mind). Here I used a marker so you could see the lines.

Next I circled the words I wanted to use and connected them with a line to make the thought easier for the reader to follow. This example actually came from the Sports Page of my morning newspaper. I think it helps to circle the words with a prominent color that will stand out.
The last step is to incorporate the text into a piece of art. The art could relate to the meaning of the words, or it could just be design. This would be a good time to discuss some color theory (warm/cool, complementary colors, etc) so students can attempt to create contrast in their art.

One of the things that is so cool about this project -- it is VERY open-ended!!  When I do this with students I will probably be using colored pencils, although other media would work too, depending on how absorbent the page of text is.
Sorry this last image is a bit blurry, but I think you get the idea. I am finding that this process is a bit addictive!! I want to do more with different kinds of text -- it is quite a fun challenge. I'll share what the kids come up with in January.


  1. Love this idea, going to show it to our middle school ELA teacher. She and I haven't collaborated in a long time and this looks like it could be fun. Thanks for sharing the visuals!

  2. Ooh, love this idea! My kids aren't quite old enough yet (they can't even read) but maybe I'll just make some for my own enjoyment. They'd make great blank notecards. Ooh, maybe I'll compile a bunch and give as a holiday gift :) Thank you for the inspiration, I'm excited to get started!!

    1. I'm thinking I should try some using my "ready to recycle" Bon Appetit magazines!!

  3. I just saw a fabulous exhibit on this, truly overwhelming, at Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. I'm not sure what the name of the artist was but I bet you would find it if you google Mass MOCA.

  4. Cool idea!!! Thanks :)