Paul Bogush in his blog post Black out poems… describes a rather neat creative writing exercise for middle-school students:
After a couple of days of research we took three books that the library wanted to get rid of.
We ripped out all of the pages … they loved ripping out the pages.
And then the kids “wrote” poems that summarized the life of a mill girl. I found that in most cases, the student’s ability matched how many words were blacked-out. Some came back with only 5–10 words not blacked-out, but it matched what I thought the student’s ability was. This is harder than it seems!
The kids “black-out” all the words they don’t want, and obviously leave the words that will make up their poem unmarked. Each one took about 10 minutes.
The kids read them afterwards and explained why they “wrote” what they did.
After collecting some and reading them myself, having the kids read and interpret is necessary. Many were very symbolic, and how you read them can easily change the meaning of what is left on the page. While they were working on these, that really cool “I-am-thinking-so-hard-I-can’t-even-make-a-sound silence” came over the room.
He provides some examples as pictures on his blog: go look at them to see the results.
I suggested this idea to my wife, who is a school librarian, but she has not de-accessioned any suitable books lately. If any of the teachers at her school wants to do the exercise, she would find suitable books at the Goodwill bookstore or the Friends of the Library lobby store in the Central Branch Library in downtown Santa Cruz. A suitable book does not need to be particularly well-written, but it needs to have a sufficient density of useful words on each page. In fact, a poorly written book that repeats the same words frequently may be better for creating poetry. Ideally, it should be a book in bad enough shape or of sufficiently low value that a librarian would not shudder at the idea of tearing all the pages out.