Instant Lesson Plan: NYT Found Poetry Contest

Last week, I shared five easy ways to help you celebrate National Poetry Month in your classroom. Today, I’m adding a sixth solid (and free!) resource. The New York Times just launched its 8th annual Found Poetry Contest, a perfect way for us to blend high-quality informational text and creative writing.

Basically, students pick and choose wording from one article or blend words/phrases from two articles to create a Found Poem of no more than 14 lines. Curious what this looks like? Last year’s winning entries can be viewed by clicking here.

To make this work in my classroom, I’ll begin by telling my students that they have an opportunity to become internationally recognized poets by using someone else’s words. Then, I’ll follow this procedure:

1. Have students group themselves in teams of two.

2. Give them the “Amy” poem by Epiphany Jones, one of last year’s contest winners, and a copy of the articles about singer Amy Winehouse that Jones used as source material. (The New York Times holds all rights to this work which is located here. I just re-formatted everything to save paper and make the work more usable in my classroom.)

Click here for my print-and-go version of the “Amy” poem assignment and articles.

3. Give students two different colored highlighters or two different colored pencils and have them mark both the poem and the articles, as directed on the assignment.

4. Review the answers by projecting the first page of the key to allow students to self-check once the work time is finished.

Click here for the answer key.

5. After discussion of the “Amy” poem, project “The Sickness Man Has Spread,” another winner from last year by Luisa Rincon, and have a student volunteer read it aloud to the class:

You could share the two source articles (here and here), but to save time I won’t repeat the word scavenger hunt. The kids should have the idea by now.

6. Explain the contest rules, listed within the NYTimes’ Learning Network Found Poetry blog post.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the contest rules to give to your students.

7. Finally, set students loose in the computer lab to read articles and build their Found Poem. They’ll actually “turn in” their poems by submitting them to The Learning Network blog by the May 3 deadline and then either sending me a screenshot of their entry once its posted (for security, I’ll have them submit using only their initials and the name of our town) or showing me their submission on my classroom computer during our SSR reading time on Friday.

Not only is this an easy path to get students writing for a larger audience, but it’s also a sneaky way to get them to dig into some non-fiction/informational text while sharpening those creative minds. BIG thanks to The New York Times for helping us inspire our kids!

Teach on, everyone.

17 thoughts on “Instant Lesson Plan: NYT Found Poetry Contest

  1. Thank you! I’m about to finish a unit now and go into some poetry – this will be a great addition to the next unit.

  2. So glad you’ll be able to fit this in, Engaging and Effective Teaching! I’m going to use it next week with all three of my preps – 9th, 10th, and 11th. 🙂

  3. Laura,
    Oh man, I fell in love with this idea!! I’m thinking since we have a short week next week and we just finished AMND that this is the perfect lesson to throw in that will still have them working. Thanks for sharing all your amazingness with us! Keep it coming, that is, if you don’t mind. ;o)

  4. Great, Meg! I’m also thinking this will be a tool that’ll keep our kids working without them realizing they’re working. A win, right? And, yes, I’ll always keep working/thinking/searching for ways to help our teacher tribe! 🙂

  5. Annette Alvarez says:

    Laura, I love this so much! You’ve got my wheels turning on how to use blackout poetry with other informational texts and even dense lit passages, like Shakespeare. Too much goodness! Thank you!

  6. Thank you for the wonderful resources! They’ll be put to use in my high school creative writing class. I always look forward your posts. (Your “Tearable Puns” were a huge hit in my classroom too!)

  7. Thanks, Annette and Reading While Eating! So glad you grabbed these goodies. 🙂

  8. says:

    Laura…somehow I deleted your post with the poetry stations – can you resend? Thanks

  9. Annette Alvarez says:

    Paying it forward! Was able to create this Google Presentation for the lesson for my juniors, who will be finding NYT articles related to their research topics for the poems:

    And, modified it a bit to fit it into my Julius Caesar characterization activity. They can’t submit it to the contest, but still a fun way for them to analyze the language and characters.

    Laura, you are an inspiration!

  10. Wow, oh wow, Annette! This is SO cool. Thanks for putting these slides together – a really great visual to support our instructions. Love it!

  11. Hi Laura,

    Love your work and your blog! Thank you for this! I was wondering, will you have it available in your Tpt store or just on this blog?

  12. Thanks, Megan! So glad you like it. This one’s going to remain a blog exclusive, I’m thinking.

    Have a great weekend,

  13. Hello, Laura,
    I am a little late in getting started with this assignment, but I am looking forward to having my students start this project this week.
    Thank you for sharing your creative ideas with us. They are helpful and fun to implement.

  14. Oh, Michelle, you still have PLENTY of time. The NYTimes contest window doesn’t close until May 3 – still lots of time for your kids to get creative. 🙂

  15. I just did this assignment with my sophomores, and it was a huge success! I wanted to pass on that the Amy Winehouse station on Pandora is the perfect soundtrack for this lesson. Also, for those who are focusing more on fiction, this assignment works perfectly for characterization poems or theme poems. I had sophomores work on Julius Caesar poems, and my colleague just had her juniors complete Found Poems on The Crucible. Those were scary as heck! That pointy reckoning is terrifyingly poetic : )

  16. Great advice, Annette! I love the Pandora channel suggestion and definitely can see this working as a wrap-up for so many lit. units, too. Love your thinking! 🙂

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