Found Again

This lesson explores Found Poetry; a collection of words reconfigured to create a new message in the form of a poem.  A selection of Langston Hughes poems will be read aloud to the class.  A compilation of writings from Renaissance poets and student responses will be shared with students.  Students will search for words within the poetry and cut them out.  Using a sheet of construction paper, students will organize the words to form a new poem and glue the words once the poem is decided. This exercise provides strategies of discovering poetry and articulating and translating meaningful language from various resources.

  • To study a historic artist

  • To expand their knowledge of artists of color

  • To use creative practice to understand an artist’s process

  • To combine multiple materials to create a narrative

  • Practice art terminology when explaining artful choices

  • To understand the use of art to document personal experiences


  • Notecards

  • Pencil

  • Notebook

  • Black marker - optional


  • Found poetry - take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems.

  • Theme - underlying message that the writer or artist wants to convey.



  • L.8.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.8.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

  • RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

  • Group Found Poem: The instructions above assume that students are writing their own poems, but the same process can be used for small or large groups of students who create found poems together. You can have each student select one line for the found poem, or you can have the group determine the words and phrases that will be used but allow each student to create his/her own arrangement of this language.

  • Publish the Found Poems: Students can publish their poems, in a print format or on the web, as a way to share them with an outside audience.

  • Organize a Poetry Reading: Another way to have students share their poems is in a poetry reading. This could be an evening activity where the students from other classes, parents, and teachers are invited to attend. The audience should be invited to ask students questions about their poems.

  • Taking Poems Online: Students can review the Harlem Renaissance documents, then write or type the words and rearrange them to create a new poem.

  • Poetry Puzzle:  Students can create a game and collaborate as a class or separate groups by building on each other’s words.  For example, one student selects a word, then the next student adds a word, and each student contributes one word until all have participated.  A scribe can share the completed poem.  To continue this process, a new student can begin the next round of word building.   

  • Text a poem:  Have students pull out their smartphone.  In the text message box, have the entire class type the same word (teacher’s choice).  Then, have them only select a word that the phone automatically suggests and continue selecting the phone suggested words for one minute.  When time expires, have each student read their poems.  This is a great warm up activity!

  • Blackout: Students create poems using the blackout techniques Austin Kleon has made famous.  Use the Langston Hughes document to blackout any words not selected from the text using a black marker.  See the Fire and Blackout instructional video for details.


Ohio Education Standards

  • A “found poem” is one that is created using only words, phrases, or quotations that have been selected and rearranged from another text. To create found poems, students must choose language that is particularly meaningful or interesting to them and organize the language around a theme or message. Writing found poems is a structured way to have students review material and synthesize their learning.  It’s a creative writing practice that allows students to use other author’s work to inspire their own message. 


  1. Word Search

    Ask students to review a text, or multiple texts from Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes. As students examine the text, have them record words, phrases, or quotations that are particularly interesting or meaningful. If the text is printed, they may circle the selected words directly on the document.  It is  recommended that they identify between 15 and 20 different words or phrases so that they have plenty of ideas from which to choose when composing their poems. 

  2. Transcribe to Card                                                                                               Give the students a stack of notecards so they may transcribe each word or phrase onto a separate notecard.  (This allows the students to organize the words in different orders providing various meanings and formats once ready to compose a poem)

  3. Identifying a Message

    Now students identify a theme and message that represents some or all of the language they have selected. A theme is a broad concept such as “fear” or “justice.” A message is a specific idea they would like to express about this theme. For example, “fear” is a theme. A message about fear may be racially driven fears of persecution solely based on racial differences.  It may be helpful to complete this step with a partner. Students can trade lists and describe the themes or main ideas they see in their partner’s list.

  4. Finalize the Language

    Found poems only use words that have been collected from other sources. So, once students have selected a theme and a message, they may need to review their materials again to collect additional language.

  5. Students Compose a Poem

    Students are now ready to arrange the words they have selected to create their poems. They can move the notecards in various placements to determine the best way to organize the language so a message emerges. Let students know that they cannot add their own words when creating a found poem (not even articles or prepositions), but they can repeat words or phrases as often as they like. Also, when composing found poems, students do not need to use all of the words or phrases they have previously selected.

  6. Share Poems

    Students can read their poems aloud to the class. Alternatively, students can read the poems silently. First, have students pass their poems to the left once. Have students read the poem they’ve received, write a comment (students should sign their name to their comment), and then pass the poem again to the left for another comment. Depending on how much time you have, you might allow for three or four passes, or you might have time for students to comment on all of the poems created by their classmates.

  7. Discuss

    This activity can end with a final discussion based on what the poems reveal about the material students have just studied. Prompts you might use to structure this discussion include: What strikes you about these poems? What do they have in common? How are they different? What surprised you when reading them? Do you feel you will be able to do this type of writing practice on your own?  What other text could we use to create found poetry? 

  8. Reflection                                                                                                                Allow students time to write a reflection on the process of found poetry, the works of Langston Hughes, and their poetry that arose from his words.


Students submit their best poem and written reflection. Grades include participation, sharing, and interpretation of the literature.