How to Implement the Found Poems Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom
A “found poem” is a poem that was developed utilizing only words, phrases, or quotations that have been selected and rearranged from another piece of content. To create found poems, learners must choose language that is especially meaningful to them and organize the words and language around a theme. Writing found poetry is a structured way to have learners review content and aggregate their learning.
- Learners Create a List of Words, Phrases, and Quotations: Ask learners to review a piece of content or multiple pieces of content, related to the unit of study, including work on the walls of the classroom, journal entries, primary source documents, and the content itself. As learners look over the content, have them record words, phrases, or quotations that are especially interesting. We suggest that they identify between 15 and 20 different words or phrases so that they have plenty of ideas from which to select when composing their poems.
- Learners Identify a Theme and Message: Next, learners identify a theme and message that embodies the wording they have selected. A theme is a broad concept, and a message is an idea they would like to express about this theme. Learners can trade lists and describe the themes or main ideas they see in their partner’s list.
- Learners Select Additional Language: Found poems only utilize words that have been collected from other sources. So, once learners have selected a theme and a message, they may need to review their materials again to receive additional language.
- Learners Compose a Poem: Learners are now ready to arrange the wording they have selected to create their poetry. One approach to this assignment is to have learners write all the words and phrases on slips of paper so that they can move the slips around until they are satisfied with their poems. Let learners know that they cannot add their own words when creating a found poem, but they can repeat words or phrases as often as they like. Also, when composing found poems, learners do not need to utilize all the words or phrases they have previously selected.
- Share Poems: Learners can read their poems aloud to the class. Alternatively, learners can read the poems silently. First, have learners pass their lyrics to the left once. Have learners read the poem they’ve received, write a comment, and then give the poem again to the left for another explanation. You may allow for three or four passes, or you may have time for learners to comment on all the poetry created by their classmates.
- Discuss: This activity can culminate with a conversation about what the poems reveal about the material learners have just studied. Prompts you may utilize to structure this discussion include: What strikes you about these poems? What do they have in common? How are they different? What surprised you when reading them?
- Group Found Poetry: The instructions above assume that learners are writing their poems, but the same process can be used for small or big groups of learners who create found poems together. You can have each learner select one line for the found poem, or you can have the group determine the words and phrases that will be utilized but allow each learner to create their arrangement of this wording.
- Poets’ Statements: Composing the found poems helps learners review and synthesize what they have learned from a unit; the poem itself does not always reveal the thinking that has gone into creating this work. For that information, you can ask learners to write a statement explaining their poems. Questions learners can answer in this statement include: What is the message of your poetry? What “evidence” of your message can be found in your poetry? Why is this message important to you?
- Publish the Found Poems: Learners can publish their poetry, as a way to share their creative works.
- Organize a Poetry Reading: Another way to have learners share their poems is via a poetry reading. You can even assign this as a homework activity where the learners from other classes, parents, and instructors are invited to attend. The audience must be encouraged to ask learners questions about their poems.