Sometimes, when there’s so much uncertainty in the world (like now) it’s nice to have a set of rules or instructions to follow. Honestly, having fewer choices is one reason I love writing nonfiction. We can’t just make up plots and main characters; we must stick with the facts and harness our creativity to turn those facts into compelling true stories.
This month’s booklist includes a host of STEM activity books, found here, all of which fall into the category of “how-to” books. As I looked through the books, I noticed each offered detailed rules or procedures for making or building items or conducting experiments. And each activity contained the following elements:
- A list of supplies and/or equipment needed
- Step-by-step instructions
- Pictures showing the process
So how can we apply this “how-to” process to our writing? By embracing poetry, of course! Most poetry requires we follow certain rules. And some special poetry forms involve using materials like books, newspapers, markers, and more, just like our STEM how-to books. Fun, right?
Here are two simple, hands-on poetry forms to try.
Blackout Poems (erasure poetry)
- old newspaper, magazine, or a page from a discarded book
- Scan through one page of your newspaper or book, looking for interesting words that might spark a poetry idea. Lightly circle them with your pencil.
- Now look for other words connecting your circled words. Remember, you won’t be able to reshuffle or reorder the words. You can only use what’s available to you in the order it appears reading left to right, down to up. Circle those new connecting words with the pencil.
- Now go back with a marker and circle all the words for your poem.
- Color or blackout all the remaining words on the page, so only your chosen words remain. You can even draw interesting shapes and designs over the remaining words if you like.
Spine Poems (found poetry)
Supplies/tools needed: Lots of books!
- Stack up books, one on top of the other, so you can read the spines.
- Starting at the top, read down through the spines, letting the words from each title become a line of poetry.
- Rearrange books as necessary until you have a poem you like.
Enjoy following these hands-on poetry “how-tos.” And here’s hoping limited choices spark unlimited creativity.
O.O.L. F (Out of Left Field)
- More blackout poetry on the Scholastic Teachers Blog.
- More spine poetry on the Scholastic Teachers Blog.
- Try these other short poem forms from Writers Digest.
Kirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. She’s the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, 2021), THE FIRE OF STARS, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, Fall 2021), along with 25 other nonfiction books for kids. Find her at kirsten-w-larson.com or on Twitter/Instagram @KirstenWLarson.