Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to do Blackout Poetry and "Unstuck" Giveaway

For this week's giveaway I want to introduce you to a book called "Unstuck" by Noah Scalin. I was sent a copy to review by Quarry Books and I am truly amazed by this book.  You can check out his website "Make Something 365".

Inside you have 52 projects or ways to get you to start being creative.  Things you may have never thought of before, interesting ways to do things, and great writing/art prompts.

When I was putting together my "Writing and the Visual Arts" session with my colleague Kim McCullough we kept going back to this book saying "Oh we could do that, or that , or that".  In the end we only talked about Blackout Poetry which I have done many times.  The point is every one of the 52 ideas in this book can be used as a basis for a larger art project or as a quick creative exercise for your classroom.

I have a waiting list of teachers at school wanting to borrow this book so you know that's a good sign!

Here are the particulars:

- soft cover
- 240 pages
- 9.25" X 6.25" or 23.5 cm X 16 cm
- suggested list price $19.99 CAN but I found it for just over $15 at Chapters
- publisher is Voyageur Press

Here is one of the projects that I can envision as a larger art project.  You could pair this with any subject in your curriculum by selecting words on that given topic. (for example Bears in Grade 1).

The kids come up with an Acronym to go with one of those words. (using our example lets say PAW: Powerful Animal Wrestler)

They then create an art project to go with that Acronym like a poster promoting Griz the Wonder Wrestler appearing in his next bout.  They can also springboard this into a story about how maybe Griz is tired of the wrestling life on the road and just wants to retire to the mountains.  You get the idea....and now you know why Kim and I were so excited by this book.
 So this is the page that describes Blackout poetry.  I have done this type of project a lot and it's one of my usual exercises that I do with teachers when I'm conducting a workshop.

Don't limit this to the higher grades, early educators can do this exercise as well you just have to adapt it.  Your goal maybe just to:
- get the kids to circle any word they recognize and base the project on that
- or maybe to try and circle the letters in their name
- or how many letters of the alphabet they can find
- or focus just on one letter (find the B's)

So here is a blackout poem I did on a paperbag book that was a project at a recent conference.


- old book pages, you can photocopy these if you want.  I try to select a book appropriate to the age of the child
- cardboard or canvas, a mount or substrate for your project
- pencil and fine markers
- white paint, (tempera, acrylic, gesso)
- paint, pencil crayons, pastel, etc. whatever type of medium you want to use for the kids to produce their illustration
- Mod Podge for sealing (optional)


Find some old books.  I love to use old Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins books.  They have great paper!  You can find these at garage sales, used book sales, discards from the library, they are everywhere.

I also like these books (see photo) or old reading texts.  You can easily photocopy pages that you want to use over and over again. You can also enlarge the print.

Cut out a section of print at random.

Read through the print and circle in pencil words to make up a poem or sentence.

We always start in pencil because as you ponder you might come up with something better.

When you have settled on a good poem go over the circles in fine marker.

Take your white paint and paint over the text except for the words you circled.  You see how with young kids you may want to enlarge the text here on the photocopier!

It's a nice effect if you allow the words to show thru a bit, it reveals the process to the viewer.

Let dry.

Now using the white space draw an illustration that goes with your poem.

Using your medium of choice add some color to your drawing.

Mount your poem to your background or substrate of choice.  Here this was the title page for a paperbag book.  A larger piece you may want to mount on prepped cardboard or even a canvas (they're on sale this week at Michael's!)

Finally you can seal this mod podge if you wish.

That's it!

Honest to Pete.... I picked this page at random and was able to come up with...."Don't be scared, be trusted"

Pretty amazing what you and your students will come up with.

So if I have perked your interest in this book why not try and win your own copy.of "Unstuck" by Noah Scalin

You can enter by:

- leaving me a comment on this post
- sending me an email at
- liking or commenting on this post on my Facebook page

This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

You have until Thursday Nov 17/11 midnight and I'll make the draw on Friday.

Good luck everyone!

P.S.  Those of you in Canada, I mentioned that framed canvas was on sale at Michaels, perfect for the Snowman Portrait project!  The 10 pack is on for $14.99 that's $1.50 per student, great deal, I can't even make them by hand for that! (good quality canvas as well)

See you soon everyone.


  1. I have Make Something 365 and have gotten many ideas from it for creative use with my girls! I did not know about Noah Scalin's new book, Unstuck. It will definitely be on our book wish list!

  2. I would love a copy of this book. I have been wanting it ever since I first heard of it!

    I had heard of blackout poetry before but never though to paint over it instead of blacking it all out. Thanks for sharing this idea!

    Good luck to everyone!

  3. I was just perusing that book at the bookstore and told my husband I was going to get it and incorporate some of the ideas into our unschooling days.

    Would love to win it!

  4. the book looks wonderful. I love poetry and your art projects have inspired some fun ones around here, so I am going to look into the book, even if I am not the winner :)

  5. I would love to win this book! I am new to attempting to create art, so I am often stuck!

  6. Ooooh I would love to win! My siblings and friends and I would have so much fun with this book!

    Thanks so much!!!!

  7. I am a bit stuck, so I'd love to be unstuck!

  8. This book looks fabulous! Thank you for all the inspiration you share!!

  9. I like the white background and painting around the words instead of other versions of blackout poetry I've seen. Adding the image really brings the new poem to life.

  10. That book looks so great! I love your blog, too. It's so helpful and clear.

  11. Love your site! I would love love to have this book! Thanks

  12. ooh, that book looks fun!! Thanks for the chance to win! I love your blog, you have so many great ideas!

  13. This activity goes so well with our exploration of poetry, thanks for the idea, we are always inspired here, and our family would really enjoy this book!

  14. Another great book! danainalaska _at- yahoo

  15. I love your blog! I just did the snowmen family project you mentioned with a class of 4-6 year old students. They loved it. They had so many fun ideas for how to decorate their snowmen (wizard hats, ties, cat ears...). We read "Snowballs" by Lois Ehlert and "Carl's Snowy Afternoon" by Alexandra Day to get them thinking about snowmen and snow. (We live in Arizona so snow is sometimes hard to imagine :)

  16. that looks great. my fingers are crossed!

  17. I would love to win. Thanks,

  18. Looks like a great inspirational book for my students. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  19. I love your blog... keeps us fresh with new ideas! Thanks for the chance to win this book! It looks really great! ~Youthful Expressions Studio (Cindy)

  20. I just wanted to say THANK YOU! The projects you do have inspired me. Each month my girls pick out 2 projects from your site to work on. We are having a so much fun and are spending some wonderful quality time together.

  21. Please enter me! Another great book and art activity!

  22. Thanks for the chance to win. Love your blog!!

  23. Cool book!


  24. You just gave me a great idea for my next Italian class: my adults students are going to love this project

  25. Hey Gail, it's me, Kim. The board won't allow me to login to my google acct.
    Enter me for the book for sure-it's awesome!
    Also, my kindergarten teacher just told me she is doing the Warhol portraits you showed at teh conference. Yeah!

  26. book looks great. thanks for the project, too. :)

  27. Hello Gail There's always some project I want to try on your blog! I'm forwarding this post to my librarian friends!

  28. Good post, I liked the method for getting "unstuck". As a photographer sometimes I lost connection with my personal projects, and get back on the track is not often easy. Happy to discover a funny way to produce something different, I'll keep it in mind for my personal projects.

  29. Such a fun activity...can't wait to do this project. Thanks

  30. This book looks great! Thanks for the chance to win a copy :o)

  31. This book looks really great:)

  32. What a fantastic project! The books looks great too.

  33. Hi Gail,
    Thank you for the opportunity to win this book. I have just recently discovered your website. Fantastic projects! I am a homeschool mom and I am always looking for a new and unique art project that we haven't already done. My daughters are 13 ad 8. I have been looking to Kathy Barbro's '' for more than a year. I look forward to adding your projects to our repertoire!
    Thank you,

  34. Love the poem page!!! I would love to win this book. Thanks for the opportunity!

  35. This book sounds fantastic!

    bvbabybv at gmail dot com

  36. Great! I was just posting on different ways to do this poetry with fast finishers. I do not have my students paint and do the art, but I can see how some teachers may want to do that. As such I linked your page here: