Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illustrating Words with your Students



Illustrating Words with Kids

A project I particularly love to bring into a classroom-- and which can take as little or as much time as you want-- is Illustrating Words. Adjectives are especially good for this exercise, but there’s no need to stop there.

I've found Grades 3 – 5 to be a good age for this exercise.

You’re familiar with Geronimo Stilton, right? Here’s an author/illustrator who pulls interesting, juicy words off of the page and launches them into the realm of illustration by way of interesting fonts.

What a great crossover—but of course, cartoonists like Will Eisner have been doing it for decades, using their art form to create totally unique fonts. In the world of comic books and graphic novels (and narrative art in general), words can be drawings and drawings can be words.

Whether you use this exercise in Language Arts or in Art, the effect is the same – kids get excited about words. If you decide to keep the exercise to adjectives only, you can reinforce what an adjective is and does-- students are describing a word that describes.

This exercise reminds of the famous real-life scene between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, when Annie pulls Helen’s hand under an icy-cold, swiftly flowing water pump, while writing the word ‘water’ over and over in the palm of her hand.

Until this point in Helen’s life, she doesn’t understand what Annie’s so desperately trying to teach her, but this watershed moment (sorry, no pun intended) opens Helen’s eyes (again, no pun intended), and she gets it BIG time.

Where else can you take this exercise? How about getting kids to write paragraphs, or even stories, using this device? The juicier the word, the more fun they can have illustrating that word in the context of a story or paragraph. See some of my examples posted in this blog entry. (DIRTY was inspired by Pig Pen of Schulz' Peanuts cartoon.)

Here’s a sampling of words you might get your students to illustrate:

HOT, SNOWY, RAINY, SUNNY, COLD, ICY, ROCKY,
FURRY, STICKY, CLOUDY, DIRTY, SMELLY,
FAT, THIN, HEAVY, LEAFY, THICK, and on and on...

Until next time... keep your pencils sharp.

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