Poetry is one of our oldest image-makers. Words paint. Readers imagine the world of the text. What if we tapped into this visual process and redirected the output? What if we began asking readers to ‘give us a picture’ of what they ‘see’ as they read?
What do these words see? And later, how might words show a place or an emotion?
Poetry attempts to alter our perception through words. By asking students to draw what they see in a passage or a chapter we bring them into the poetic process. Creating a classroom where these drawings are shared and discussed situates each member of the class as an image-maker. By establishing various drawing activities within the study of the language arts we encourage students to explore other versions of ‘image-making’. The imagination has another platform. Students have access and place to continue the conversation.
In class students discussed their planning (“pre-writing”) for their design as well as their hopes (the effect on the audience). Everyone had words to add. Later in writing they pursued this question: In what ways did the activity alter or enhance your understanding of the passage or reading itself? You may discuss your own work or work of your peers.
For the assignment the students chose a passage from their reading to draw and provide ‘a visual reading of the passage’. The examples below are from three different sections of the text we were reading at the time (The Odyssey). One student wrote later that the assignment was the most difficult of the unit “because we had to draw a picture of what was going on in the chapter and I didn’t really have a good understanding of the chapter that we had to draw which made it tough.”