It is perhaps a little overdue, but I’ve been planning for a while to post a little about the results from the classroom of the obliteration poetry project that I ran with my third years (fifteen year olds) at the end of the last school year. I’ve posted twice before about the preparation, ideas and influences behind the project.
Now though I have the results and some thoughts about how the project was received and engaged with by pupils.
Overall I feel that the assignment as a whole worked well. The pupils understood the challenge of the language part of the assignment clearly and enjoyed the language puzzle aspect of it as they battled with the options that the text offered. In many pupils there seemed to be a determination to squeeze everything possible out of the available words. Equally though others found it a frustrating business when they had settled on a direction for a given sentence only to discover that they just couldn’t quite get there due to the absence of sometimes the smallest of linking words. The more creative linguists saw this though as a challenge to discover a new direction to take the new narrative in.
As and when I repeat the assignment I think I will offer maybe a little more time and support in getting the grammar and logic of the constructed sentences as sharp and correct as they can possibly be. This language component and the challenge to try and ensure that the text is both correct and interesting to read is a crucial part and requires considerable focus and time to perfect.
Once the text is in order I made a number of requirements for the design element:
- The text must be clear and easy to read, the design of the page must lead you clearly and easily across the page finding the chosen words quickly and in the correct order.
- There should be a number of figurative elements that relate to the newly created narrative/poem/story line. These should be bold and easily visible amongst the other aspects of the page.
- The page should be filled with imagery, patterns and colour that show strong attention for the overall design of the page as a whole.
This design part of the assignment certainly provided the pupils with considerable engagement and it was clear to see that approaches and techniques were being used, reused and modified around the class. Some pupils were very successful and using often quite abstract design concepts in order to pull the separate figurative element together in order to create an overall engaging design. Others struggled to connect pictorial elements that resulted from the text construction. Often it would seem that weaknesses in the language partly fed weaknesses in the design work, further reason to give the text part a little more focus on a future occasion.
Overall though I see no reason at not to peruse and develop the assignment further, any improvements being more a question of fine tuning rather than a total rebuild. I would also encourage non-visual arts teachers to have a go, at the very least at the textual part of the assignment. It is fascinating to watch and support pupils in the puzzling that goes on.
The examples posted here make use of the opening chapters of Wuthering Heights as their starting point.