Why making constraint-based erasures can be good for children

In a previous post, I discussed my procedure in introducing some upper elementary children to constraint-based erasure poetry.  I think that, besides the benefits of creating poetry lateral to the self, this type of engagement with books may be doubly beneficial for children (or any learner).

A constraint-based erasure can be done with any text; therefore, this can be another way to interact with texts not normally considered literature: science books, historical documents, etc.

A constraint-based erasure is a way to give reading careful attention.  Students can gain more familiarity with key terms and their contexts, seeing how one term relates to another and how the terms collaborate within a paradigm.  Even though the goal in a constraint-based erasure is to create interesting manipulations, this goal has a sub-goal of understanding the original context; thus, careful reading is required.

A constraint-based erasure is a way to show an understanding of terminology.  Even though the recontextualizing may be a way to undermine a term’s meaning, that undermining best happens when the meaning is known.  For example, to write an oxymoron, one must know how the terms conflict.  Therefore, oxymorons could be especially rewarded.  Depending on the student’s level, perhaps there could be an expectation of the student identifying devices/techniques (such as complementary or oxymoronic word pairings) or at least describing why these decisions were made.

A constraint-based erasure can convey mastery of concepts.  At its best, not only is an interesting piece of literature made, but comprehension of the subject matter is attained.

A constraint-based erasure gives confidence and comfort with textual material.  What may have seemed like intimidating material becomes fodder for a word game.  The student is invited to explore and play with the words to create poetry—in which there is no “right” or “wrong answer.”  The text becomes literally accessible.  The student and the material become the only independent variables, and the student him-/herself constructs the formula that intersects the two.  A constraint-based erasure allows for a reaction on the student’s terms.

A constraint-based erasure invites students to create a system and to be consistent. Because of its method-based nature, a constraint-based erasure requires a procedure; thus, the student must think critically about what procedure he/she would like to use.  Once the procedure has been outlined, the student must demonstrate consistency in applying it (or be able to account for deviations).

Constraint-based erasures unlock what connects all fields: language use.  Constraint-based erasures acknowledge that language is how we convey and construct knowledge.  All fields are a science.  All fields are an art.  Through meaning, we create boundaries; through recontextualizing, we show connections.

While I am not an expert in pedagogy for teaching adolescents or children, I think constraint-based erasures may be a worthwhile exercise.

Do you teach children or adolescents?  Would you consider incorporating constraint-based erasures into your curriculum?  What concerns do you have in doing so?