Poets, writers and musicians have a long history of writing that is inspired by a beautiful piece of art. Van Gogh’s Starry Night, for example, has inspired both poetry and song! This week the teachers in our county returned for teacher professional development to prepare for the opening of school. In my arts integration workshops, teachers learned and practiced some of the basic Artful Thinking Routines. Then, they explored how to use these questioning routines as a way to get students to look closely at art, thus inspiring writing. I introduced teachers to a number of ekphrastic (ekphrasis: a literary description of a work of art) poetry techniques. Besides Cooperative Poetry and Haibun (the subject of previous posts), here are several of these quick and easy poetry ideas. They are adaptable at all grade levels.
Poems for Two Voices:
Select a piece of art that has at least two characters or two points of view. Introduce examples of a two voice poem and discuss how this type of poem could be used tell a story. After exploring the art with the Artful Thinking routines What Makes You Say That? or Perceive, Know, Care About, have students brainstorm exchanges that might occur between two parties in the painting or two points of view inspired by the art. Students can record these on a three column organizer: the outer columns are used for lines for each different voice and the middle column for what the lines they might say together. Students work in small groups or pairs to write and perform the poems.
After observing and discussing the artwork with a routine such as I See, I Think, I Wonder, students write lines of poetry based on sensory perceptions they might have if they were to step into the painting. After imagining that they have walked into the setting, they record what they might smell, hear, taste, touch, feel against their skin, and feel inside and record descriptive words, phrases or sentences for each on an organizer. They can read their responses in order as a poem or select a favorite response to put on a sentence strip. Sentence strips from various students could be ordered to create a collaborative poem.
A list poem is an itemization of observations that is ordered to create a poem. It may rhyme or not. You can assign or have students select a theme. Themes might include colors, shapes, feelings, ideas, concepts, memories, or anything else that is appropriate to the content. Students work alone, in pairs or in small groups. Their goal is to observe works in a collection (a gallery of images) of art. Then, while perusing and examining the art, the students brainstorm and record words or short phrases inspired by what they see that relates to the theme.
Using this list, they arrange/order the words and phrases into a poem. As an option, students might participate in a gallery walk and identify a theme that becomes apparent to them as they view the artworks. They return a second time and then create a list of details they see that illustrates the theme for their poems.
Want more resources for ekphrasis? Check these out:
Pat is an arts integration specialist in Anne Arundel County, MD. Having been a mentor teacher and instructional coach, she passionately believes that integrating the arts is the best approach to teaching: it enriches the classroom environment with art, engages students and motivates learning. Her mission is help all teachers realize that they can teach through the arts with a little know-how. Pat appears every Monday. Email Pat.