Right in the middle of the Victorian unit are two poems that I have always loved but have always had limited success with. They aren't very "active" (no plot or action-mainly symbolism and imagery). At the same time they are very powerful and memorable and I wanted the students to connect them to their own lives. Earlier in the year, Shauna Reid showed me a project she did with her English 9 students where they made simple locker magnets and I thought this might be a perfect activity to help students:
a) Focus on key ideas in the poems
b) Make a personal and lasting connection with the poems
c) Create a visual connection to the words
d) Add a small hands-on activity in the middle of two fairly "bookish" and lower-energy days in class
The magnets worked very well. Students had to choose their favourite quotes from each of the two poems. Then they needed to add a visual to go with the words. Usually I require all artwork in the class to be original (because I don't care what it looks like-artistic expression is not a requirement of Literature 12) but in this case I wanted students to actually put this up somewhere public. To improve the odds of students creating something that was visually appealing, they were given the option to bring in a personal photo or to get an image off the internet. The students decorated small sheets of watercolour paper (chopped up from bigger sheets) and then covered each side with packing tape and attached a cheap magnet strip ($2.50 for the whole class from the dollar store) to the back of each one. The students were extremely focused on the activity so the negative side was that it took 45 minutes in class instead of the 30 minutes I had allotted. I do have a fairly large number of artistic students in the class and this activity certainly lent itself to their strengths.
The activity options were broad enough that all of the students were able to create something that was personally meaningful and aesthetic. Above are 4 different styles. Top Left: the student brought in his own set of watercolour paints to create his magnet. Bottom left: student is passionate about travelling next year so he made 3 magnets (one was translated to Dutch). He used images off the internet. Top Right: Artistic student used the materials provided in class (extra fine sharpies) to create all images Bottom Right: student brought in a stamp to make an artistic image.
Post courtesy of Naryn Searcy