Thursday, April 8, 2010

Altered Books and Found Poetry

Middle school is such a tenuous age when students are searching for identity, want to express themselves, yet find it difficult to do. This lesson is a wonderful way for middle grade students (and highschoolers as well) to find an outlet. It combines the concept of altered books with poetry, which seems to come naturally to many students this age.

The thing you need in quantity are lots of discarded books. This could be easier than you think. As I used to be a librarian, I know that many books are often discarded after they have sat in the book sale area for too long, or when the used book donations people make to the library are too musty to store. My library donated hundreds of books for this project and believe me, they had thousands more where they came from.

You could take this lesson as far as you like, but when I taught it, I only had one period (I participated in an "art day" in Bethlehem, where the students had art for an entire day, and rotated around the school to different rooms participating in many different lessons. A cool idea in itself!) Here is basically how I taught my lesson:

I showed a power point with many examples of altered books. There are so many things that you can do and I will not go into all of them here. What I focused on was how you can use the text in the book to 'find' poetry. Basically the students scanned the text for words or phrases that stood out to them. They circled or underlined these words. Then, using oil pastels, they colored in/drew pictures around these words so that only those chosen words were visible, or highlighted. The images that they drew, colors they chose etc. were related to the 'found poetry' they had highlighted. This was the lesson I taught. As I said, you could easily extend this lesson where students could keep their book as a journal, a project they work on periodically throughout the year, something they add to, subtract from, etc. I was told by many of the students that this lesson was one of their favorites of the day. This tells me that it was perfect for this age group. They came up with some pretty intense material!


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