Concrete Imagery

6 12 2007

Apparently, love is the favorite topic for 8th graders to write about. They write these really “deep” pieces about their feelings and bring them up to my desk with their chests puffed up, holding their breath. “Mrs. Reed, will you read this?” and then they throw the essay about what love is on my desk. It’s really hard to pretend like I haven’t read it before. It’s also really hard not to laugh. So, my challenge has been moving these kids away from cliché writing about abstract ideas toward using concrete images to illustrate their ideas.

So, we began our lesson today with Fergie’s song, “Glamorous.” It was really, really fun (to put it abstractly)! I had the kids write down all of the images they could find that illustrated the Dutchess’ notion of what glamorous is. Here are the ones we found: flying first class, champagne, diamond rings, having a chaperone, rims, selling records, driving a mustang, limousines, caviar, shopping for expensive things, having (a lot of) money in the bank, shoe fetish, trips to Rome, being on MTV, being on the movie screen, being on magazine covers, half a million (butter scones?).

After that, I took Emma Bolden’s genius lesson that she presented at Sun Belt this summer–we came up with images for the following abstract ideas: love, anger, sadness, frustration, patience, joy, peace, and hate. (They also were not allowed to use the words “good” or “bad” in their imagery.) Here are some of the images my students came up with:

LOVE: My husband doing the dishes before going to bed at night (mine), my daddy getting up at three a.m. to get me a mouth guard for basketball, Having all of your family around you, When your parents take you to Hollister and buy you an $80 pair of pants for no reason

ANGER: When you order a cheeseburger but you don’t get any meat or cheese, Getting kicked out of a good skate spot, the look on your face when you just found out your dad went through your phone

JOY: When the old woman in front of you speeds up, Getting a new skateboard, When a player on the other team catches a punt and runs it backwards to get a safety

PEACE: The forest, Sleeping during the rain, When your house is quiet because you tied your two sisters up with jump ropes and put one in the bath tub and one in the kitchen cabinet (once you get one tied up, it’s easy to get the other one)

PATIENCE: Waiting in the cold on the day after Thanksgiving Day sales, Trying to learn a new trick three weeks before a contest, My grandmother’s face when she’s cooking, When you’re sitting at the doctor’s office, Getting my hair braided, Waiting for your turn to play in the game, Waiting for an old lady to get up some steps

PEACE: Being surrounded by my family, The sound of rain on my roof at night, When me and my brother aren’t making the neighbors call the cops, The silence in your house when nobody’s there, WHen your softball coach quits blowing the whistle to run

HATE: SAT’s, Bad headache at school, When someone eats your food, Doing homework, When people drop wide open passes

FRUSTRATION: Stubbing your toe on a table while going to your room half asleep at 3 a.m., When you forget what you’re about to say, Not being able to figure out a problem on a math test, Sitting in Mrs. Reed’s class trying to think of something to write about, Sitting in a boring class, When your P.E. coaches make you run a mile when they’re the ones that need to run it

SADNESS: My cousin who I was tripping out with one day dying the next, Listening to people cry in a movie, When your coon dog gets bit by a rabid coon, When your 8 year old cat dies

The other night, Adam, Audra and I were watching The Actor’s Studio with John Cusack. He was talking about how 12 is like the Buddha age–when your perception of the world is clear and unjaded, but still mature enough to see how things work… Since my kids are 13 and 14, they’re really not too far off from that. I am always surprised by the maturity my kids show in their perceptions of the world around them. Yesterday, I had a student share a story about hanging out at her grandmother’s house (in a neighborhood where “all the crack heads live”) when she heard 2 gun shots. She watched the police bring the man out without his gun. In the end, they discovered that he had hidden the weapon in a cereal box. Another student (who is failing 3 of his core classes right now and who never really acts like he gives a rat’s ass about my class) wrote an essay entitled, “Bringing Back Sunday Night Dinner.” I think what makes this age so special is that they act like they’re “grown,” that I am often convinced that they are (as when I have to remind them that I am the adult here!) so it’s easy to forget that these kids still have the souls of children… and perhaps so do we.




3 responses

7 12 2007

Totally cool. Thank you for sharing this. I really like the idea of using the Fergie song. I’m not that big a fan of hers, but my wife is. Did any of them learn how to spell glamorous from the song?

7 12 2007

It was really fun… but I can’t get that song out of my head 🙂

9 12 2007

These are brilliant. Brilliant! “When you order a cheeseburger but you don’t get any meat or cheese” may perhaps be the best metaphor for anger I’ve ever heard. And also, somehow, for my life. Hmm … Maybe there’s something to this Buddha age …

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