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March 9, 2017 Teaching Imagery With Tar Beach By Nicole Kent
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Faith Ringgold is an exceptional artist and author who in her book Tar Beach, shares childhood memories of her family’s relaxing rooftop adventures during the summer in New York City. I love using this book to enlighten my students about Ringgold’s artistic background, including her use of fabric as medium. I explain that the images they see in the book are scenes from her childhood. Her family was very important to her and that is where she drew her inspiration.

    Read on for ways to use Tar Beach to dazzle your students while teaching imagery in writing and click here to purchase a copy of the book for your own classroom

    I begin with having my students look carefully at the exquisite but unusual illustrations of Tar Beach. I point out to my students that the illustrations in the story are part of Ringgold’s story quilt. I show the students that there is a quilted border on the cover and as well as the interior pages. After giving my students time to look through the book, I ask the students to ask where they think that the story takes place. I like to pose the question whether they think the story is fact or fiction, and have the students offer statements to support their reasoning.

    I ask the class if they believe Cassie really could fly over the city. I tell them that when Cassie says she can “fly,” the author is making use of figurative language. I have the children look on a map to locate New York City, Harlem, and the George Washington Bridge. I pull up pictures of these locations on Google.

    We talk about how the author is writing about the rooftop of a neighborhood apartment building that she can see from the roof of her own Harlem apartment. I show my students pictures of what a rooftop on an apartment building in Harlem looks like. I explain that how when the author was a child, her family often spent hot summers nights up on the roof and the adults played cards and the children stayed up late, lying on mattresses.

    I like to teach my students about creative imagery. I think it is so important for students to have an image of what is happening in the story. So I have my students lie on the floor and close their eyes.  I read Tar Beach and have each of the students imagine that he or she is Cassie, flying over the George Washington Bridge.

    When the story is done, I ask my students how it felt to fly, as well as what they saw as they were flying. I give each one a piece of paper to illustrate what they think they look like flying and what they noticed during their flight. After the students have completed their illustrations, I take all the pages and bind them together to make a class book of our journeys.

         

    As an extension activity, I asked my children to think of a building that they would like to own if they could fly over it. I explain to the students that they are going to create their own piece of art both on their own and as a group. Everyone creates their own building and a picture of themselves flying. Everyone in the small group creates one side of the fabric border around the edge of the image, while one or two of the students draw and add glitter to the bridge for the group’s background. Buildings are placed over the bridge; bodies are glued in the air.

         

     

    Faith Ringgold is an exceptional artist and author who in her book Tar Beach, shares childhood memories of her family’s relaxing rooftop adventures during the summer in New York City. I love using this book to enlighten my students about Ringgold’s artistic background, including her use of fabric as medium. I explain that the images they see in the book are scenes from her childhood. Her family was very important to her and that is where she drew her inspiration.

    Read on for ways to use Tar Beach to dazzle your students while teaching imagery in writing and click here to purchase a copy of the book for your own classroom

    I begin with having my students look carefully at the exquisite but unusual illustrations of Tar Beach. I point out to my students that the illustrations in the story are part of Ringgold’s story quilt. I show the students that there is a quilted border on the cover and as well as the interior pages. After giving my students time to look through the book, I ask the students to ask where they think that the story takes place. I like to pose the question whether they think the story is fact or fiction, and have the students offer statements to support their reasoning.

    I ask the class if they believe Cassie really could fly over the city. I tell them that when Cassie says she can “fly,” the author is making use of figurative language. I have the children look on a map to locate New York City, Harlem, and the George Washington Bridge. I pull up pictures of these locations on Google.

    We talk about how the author is writing about the rooftop of a neighborhood apartment building that she can see from the roof of her own Harlem apartment. I show my students pictures of what a rooftop on an apartment building in Harlem looks like. I explain that how when the author was a child, her family often spent hot summers nights up on the roof and the adults played cards and the children stayed up late, lying on mattresses.

    I like to teach my students about creative imagery. I think it is so important for students to have an image of what is happening in the story. So I have my students lie on the floor and close their eyes.  I read Tar Beach and have each of the students imagine that he or she is Cassie, flying over the George Washington Bridge.

    When the story is done, I ask my students how it felt to fly, as well as what they saw as they were flying. I give each one a piece of paper to illustrate what they think they look like flying and what they noticed during their flight. After the students have completed their illustrations, I take all the pages and bind them together to make a class book of our journeys.

         

    As an extension activity, I asked my children to think of a building that they would like to own if they could fly over it. I explain to the students that they are going to create their own piece of art both on their own and as a group. Everyone creates their own building and a picture of themselves flying. Everyone in the small group creates one side of the fabric border around the edge of the image, while one or two of the students draw and add glitter to the bridge for the group’s background. Buildings are placed over the bridge; bodies are glued in the air.

         

     

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