By Tina M. Rantanen
At the end of each unit I like to explore what the students learned by letting them to use their artistic sides. This gives them another way to express what they have learned in addition to the discussing and writing we have done throughout the unit. I realize that some students are like myself and can’t draw very well, so I try to give them alternative ways to be creative and expressive. Over the years I have used two of the following examples.
Figurative Language Illustration
I love teaching Night every year with my freshmen. The book is poignant and short. Most of the students find it interesting and very different from Anne Frank that many were exposed to during eighth grade. When we have finished reading, we go back through the book and find examples of figures of speech. We specifically look for hyperbole, irony, metaphors, metonymy, paradox, personification, and similes. Then I ask them to pick one to illustrate on a large sheet of paper or poster board. I tell them the more creative they are the better! Over the years I have received some amazing projects. If possible, I take pictures of the projects and then post them to the school’s website. Students are then able to share their projects with family and friends. I have used this with other books like The Things They Carried. The projects turned out just as creative and interesting.
Not Your Typical Character Sketch
Of Mice and Men is another favorite of mine and the students usually enjoy it as well. After we have finished reading, I put them into random groups. I like groups of four the best, but 3 or 5 work also. I have each group pick a card that has the name of one of the characters on it. I use 8 characters, but I take out some of them for smaller classes. Each student receives a piece of copy paper where they have to draw what they think their character looks like. Next, as a group they pick who draws the best features to put on the final copy. They also choose a quote that they think embodies their character the best. Then, they are given a large sheet of paper. Each person in the group must draw some aspect of the character. They have to color it, and include the quote. Finally, as a group they share their project with the class explaining what each person contributed, and why they chose the quote. These are displayed in the classroom for all to enjoy.
Whose Phone Is This?
I have tried several final projects with Romeo and Juliet. My current favorite is one that I tried for the first time last year. A colleague shared it with me. It is called “Whose Phone Is This?” Each student is given a sheet with the opening screen of a cell phone on it. They are asked to sketch the wallpaper of the character that they chose and color it. They have to explain why the image would appeal to their character. Next, they have to write two emails that the character would have received from other characters in the story. Finally, they have to write three song titles with artists’ names that would likely be on the character’s song list. They also have to explain why they choose those particular songs. (I admit that I only knew about half of the songs.) However, if the explanations were sufficient, I didn’t have to be familiar with the song. The reasons that the students used were the best part of the assignment. In most cases it really showed their upper level thinking skills. I will use this activity again, and it can be used with many different stories.
What types of final projects do you use in your classroom? And how can you use and adapt this lesson for your own classroom? Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook! Tina M. Rantanen teaches English 9H, 12H and English 12 at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, WV. This is her twentieth year of teaching and she loves the difference between her freshmen and seniors each year. She is a member of the newly formed WVCTE and is the English Department Chair at Spring Mills High School.