I remember loving the poetry units I did when I was a student in elementary school. The poems that stick out in my mind are the concrete poem (I made a cloud with raindrops falling down – each drop containing one letter of the word raindrop), the haiku, and the cinquain. What I remember struggling with the most was free verse. I have trouble with too much choice and not enough constraints or structure. When we are given constraints or a limited set of rules, it can actually help make us more productive. And making art doesn’t require anything fancy. With a few constraints and some objects in our environment, you’d be surprised what you can create.
Since many of you educators are heading into a summer break, it’s a great time to inspire creativity in yourself. Making art yourself will make you a better facilitator of art-making in your classroom or your school. You may even get some inspiration for learning activities for your classroom in the process!
Here are a 10 ideas to get you started:
1. Language Arts:
Grab a pinch of magnetic poetry words and create as many poems as you can with just those words. You may repeat words but no adding!
2. Language Arts:
Open a page in a favorite novel. Choose 10 interesting words from the page. Write a poem or a short story using those words.
3. Visual Art:
Create a drawing on an index card. Choose one type of line or shape and either warm or cool colors. Create a whole series: Warm Swirls, Cool Dashes, Warm Rectangles, Cool Circles, etc. Try putting the cards together into a sort of quilt. Name your piece.
4. Visual Art:
Reach into your junk drawer and pull out 5 small items you don’t need. Create a collage. Name it. What do the remnants of your junk drawer have to say about you? Don’t have a junk drawer? Try your purse or your desk drawer at school. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t keep junk around, head to a recycling center or a dollar store. Or, start collecting items that you would normally throw away just for your collage!
Go back to that junk drawer. Pull out one random item. Write a monologue from that item’s point of view reflecting on life in a junk drawer. Deliver the monologue. Don’t have a junk drawer? Reach into a jewelry box and put out an item you haven’t worn in a long time.
Make a drama date with a friend. Ask them to bring over 2-3 random items and you choose 2-3 yourself. Together improvise a scene that ties together all the items you chose. Try another scene using the items in a new way or connecting them in a new way. Or invite a few friends and make it a party – the more the merrier! Still only use 4-6 items per scene.
Choose 3 movements: one should be a locomotor movement (one that takes you off your spot and brings you to a new spot like walking or skipping), one should be an axial or non-locomotor movement (like swinging your arms or kicking your legs), the third can be either. Create a dance phrase using those 3 movements. (If you want structure for the phrase try using 8 counts per phrase). Create another phrase using the same three movements but change an element (like change the energy of your walk from smooth to heavy or change the level of your swing or kick) and change the order of the movements. Continue until you have 4 phrases and then string them together.
Find a song you like. Try dancing to the song letting one body part initiate all your movements like your fingers or your back making sure to move between high, middle and low space.
Choose a favorite childhood song (Twinkle, Twinkle; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Home on the Range). Sing about something you did that day to that tune. Or sing about something you need to do but don’t want to. The song might make it easier to tackle the task!
Choose a random object from around the house – a piece of paper, a pen, your pillow, a plastic bag. The possibilities are endless! Play with that object and see how many different kinds of sounds you can produce with it. Create a short percussive piece that starts quietly (piano), builds in volume (crescendo) and ends quietly again (piano).
Set those limits, look for inspiration around you and get ready for that inspire creativity to flow!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.