Art in ELA Audience CCSS Creativity ELA English Language Arts Poetry

Need to “Kill” a Period? RE/Mix It!

Teacher Confession… I love when my fellow teachers ask me, “Hey Theriault, I need to kill a period, what can I do?”

Coming up with a last-minute lesson plan is one of my favorite challenges. You could ask why I’m so good at generating last-minute lesson plans, but having to come up with a last minute lesson plan is extremely useful in a high school setting:

  • One class is off-track due to: fire drill, lack of class discussion, tech malfunction.

  • You need a one day activity because the class set of novels hasn’t been returned yet or the computer lab was closed due to a district meeting.

  • You want to give your students a break between major units.

  • You need a catch-up day or a day to conference with students about something.

You might think that the ability to generate a on-the-spot lesson plan is due to my “creative thinking” powers, but that’s not the case. My creativity is a combination of:

  • Twenty years of experience

  • A handful of lesson plans that have been shown to work again and again

  • My willingness to try something new

  • The ability to take something old or familiar and re/MIX it.

I know, I know, you are not looking for justifications, you are looking for solutions; you need to “Kill” a period, but you don’t want to show a movie, or feel guilty about having them read quietly, or finish their work from other classes.

SOLUTION: You are going to have them create/make a Found/Re-Mix Poem.  What’s a Found or Re/Mix poem? It’s a poem that is created by taking lines/phrases from various pieces of previously created writing and remixing them into something new. Re/Mixing is one of my and Mr. Ziebarth’s favorite activities:

You should watch and share all four parts- trust me

Creating and sharing a Found or Re/Mix poem will allow you to address a minimum of nine Common Core Anchor Standards. You can even do this in classes besides English.



FIRST STEP: Find some source material that works either works with whatever you are currently studying or deals with a topic or theme you want to cover with your class.

Here are some WWI Poems I used for this activity while we were reading All Quiet on the Western Front

If the embed is a problem you can open this Google Doc with the World War I poems

SECOND STEP: Share with students the requirements of the assignment. For my most recent Found/Remix poem assignment the requirements were:

  1. Read the four poems silently at your desk

  2. Underline sections/phrases/lines that you like

  3. Get together in groups of 3-4 and discuss each poem making sure you understand the poems.

  4. Create a new poem of at least six lines (most were way longer)

  5. Create a new title for the poem

  6. Using design or illustration expand on the theme of the poem

  7. Be prepared to read and discuss your poem with the class

I had a series of questions that I would ask each group they included:

  • Explain the title of your poem

  • Which line of the poem spoke to you and why?

  • Which words were the most important and why?

  • Explain the design and illustration of the poem.

  • What choices did you choose to not include via your words or design?

  • How does your poem relate to All Quiet on the Western Front?

  • What question do you wish I had asked? Now answer it.

You could also ask:

  • If you were going to share this poem with other people which 140 characters would best represent this poem and/or capture a potential audience’s attention?

  • Tell me about the rhyme or rhythm of the poem?

  • What did you leave out or leave ambiguous so that your audience could fill in the blanks or be left to wonder?

  • What line did you argue the most about? Why?

THIRD STEP: Let them work and create. I gave each group a piece of cardstock and we have a class box of markers and colored pencils. They were so busy I let them work until the next day.

FOURTH STEP: Let them present. I used a Elmo Camera Arm. (Gasp so 2011!) The students kinda like using it because when you go to focus it or change the contrast level it looks like magic.

FIFTH STEP: Grade them. No I don’t have a rubric, but I found one on Glenn Wiebe’s blog History Tech in his blog post about using Found Poems in history class. You should read his post, it’s great.

Here is what some of them looked like- feel free to click on them to see a larger slide show of the images.

The magic of this is you can do it with more than just poetry and in more than just your English class. You could.

  • Create one just using a single chapter from a novel. I’ve done this many times with an important chapter and it works awesome at getting students to see what’s important, what resonates with others.

  • Create one in Science or Math with a single chapter. You can actually come up with some pretty cool poems that way and it might help them study for a final quiz/test.


  • Create one with speeches or speech excerpts from famous leaders or public figures.

  • Create one with Tweets or Social Media shares by an artist or public figure, athlete or coach.

  • You can have students circle words in a piece of writing as a form of “Found/Remix writing”

  • You could even take writing out of a magazine and have students paste words or phrases to create a new poem.

  • Create one with poems about other school subjects. Here are some examples of cool poems about various academic subjects:

If the embed is messy on your mobile device you can view the academic subject area poems here

Found Poems

You can even do a black out poem as a form of Found Poetry. My friend Sean Ziebarth does these with his students and tears out pages from a novel and then the whole class creates a book of poems based on the novel. He shared these with Austin Kleon and over 15,000 people saw it when Austin Kleon re-shared them.


<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Novel Blackout Poems” target=”_blank”>Novel Blackout Poems</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Austin Kleon</a></strong> </div>

I LOVE watching students work together to create these. If you have any other cool examples, or ideas about this please feel free to share or re/mix as you see fit.



  1. Hey Mr. Theriault!
    Just a former student checking in. Here I am, again, on a WordPress account for a class. Except this time, I have to post every day. This is going to take some getting used to. At least it is about art this time. I guess it is safe to say last year was a pretty good prep for college. It is cool to see how well your blog is doing! Anyway, I hope all is well, and I just wanted to say thanks for how well you prepared me for this next step in my life.
    -Jenn S.

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