Found Poetry from Primary Sources

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The historical record reveals factual evidence, but poetry can lend meaning and emotional dimension to the telling of history. In this activity, students analyze primary source documents from the Library of Congress, then share their understanding through the illustrated poetry they create.

In this activity, students analyze and interpret historical, primary source content, then synthesize the information, making personal connections with history as they retell it from their own perspective. The activity provides an opportunity for students to creatively share their historical understanding with an authentic audience.

While writing original poetry can be daunting to students, this activity uses a “found poetry” strategy. Using rich primary source texts, students select words that allow them to retell the historical content in poetic form. Students use primary source images first for analysis, then as graphical support for their poems.

Student poems and images can be collected and published as a classroom “chapter book” organized by prominent historic themes and events from the National History Eras. The classroom publication also could focus on broad historical themes.