Poetry by Moonlight

Standards Met: McREL Visual Arts Standard 2 (Knows how to use structures and functions of art); CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5

What You Need: Drawing paper, watercolor paints, brushes, permanent markers

What To Do: When teaching color blending with analogous color schemes (colors that are next to each other on the color wheel), Heather Devita has her students create watercolor moon silhouettes. “This is the perfect project to integrate poetry, because all students have experienced the moon,” says Devita, a K–5 art teacher at Bettie F. Williams Elementary and Centerville Elementary in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

First, have students brainstorm words and phrases that describe or remind them of the moon; write these on the board or on chart paper. In addition to using descriptive adjectives, encourage kids to practice figurative language by composing metaphors, playing with idioms, and using personification. The class will use these words and phrases to write their poems and as inspiration for their drawings.

Next, have students create a sketch of the moon in the top right corner of their paper and draw a swirl that extends outward, taking up most of the page. On the opposite side of their paper, kids draw the silhouette of an accompanying image (e.g., an owl on a branch, as above). The design can overlap with the swirl, but the more of the swirl that is left uncovered, the more space they’ll have for their poem.

Using a marker, students then fill in the silhouette of their drawing and compose a poem that complements the scene they have created using the descriptive language the class brainstormed. Have kids write their poems so that the words are swirling around the moon. Finally, students paint the rest of the page using analogous colors on a watercolor palette. Have them overlap the colors so that they blend together, creating a soft, dreamy look.

Set in Stone

Standards Met: McREL Visual Arts Standard 1 (Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts); CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5

What You Need: Smooth stones, permanent markers, strong glue, posterboard or canvas.

What To Do: Two common subjects when writing haikus are nature and the four seasons. Add an extra element of nature by creating your haikus with poetry stones.

Begin by sharing examples of traditional haiku poetry from some of the masters, such as Issa or Basho (Poetry Foundation or Poem Hunter). Then, invite students to choose a topic based on their natural surroundings. They can focus on topics as broad as the weather or as specific as a broken tree branch.

Once each student has chosen a topic and written a haiku, check to make sure it follows the 5-7-5 syllable pattern (haikus traditionally contain two images separated by a pause, as well). If it doesn’t, work together to revise it. Then, have kids transfer their short poems to the stones with a permanent marker, so that each stone contains one word of the haiku. For a twist, invite kids to mix up their stones and try using them in a different order. The tough part: Each new haiku formed must follow the syllable pattern. Once students select their favorite haikus, have them glue their poems to a posterboard or a canvas.

Word Search

Standards Met: McREL Visual Arts Standard 2; CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5

What You Need: Old books, pencils, permanent markers

What To Do: Devita also likes to create “found poems” with her Virginia elementary art students. “It’s fun to rediscover a new use for old books,” she says. Her students find poems in the text of old books and turn them into art by blacking out the other words on the page, creating a design that reflects the theme of their poem.

Devita explains that found poems are created from words in a text; the writer decides which words go together and in what order. She shows examples of blackout poetry. (Artist Austin Kleon creates fun blackout poetry using newspaper clippings at his website) Then, she passes out old books and students select a page, decide which words to keep, and mark those words with pencil; they read their work out loud to see if it sounds right. Students then use a marker to circle the words they’ve chosen and black out the rest of the page.

Devita encourages students to turn their poems into art by creating designs with lines, shapes, and pictures as they work. The designs they create should match the subject, theme, and tone of their poems.

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Image: Courtesy of Heather DeVita