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Taking a closer look at poetry.

Teachers enjoy transforming their classrooms into environments where their students feel safe, comfortable and welcome. They also want these places to be instructive. One way teachers accomplish this goal is to install bulletin boards, but there are more possibilities.

As methods instructors in elementary education, we saw an opportunity to encourage teachers to explore their classroom design as they integrate curricular areas. We created guidelines to help teachers connect language arts and visual arts by building classroom displays.

How to Begin

To build a display, a teacher selects a poem and a location for installation. Language arts and visual arts principles can be integrated by designing a display that guides students to understand how words and images coincide.

Teachers can design displays that are visually appealing and interactive. Invite students to participate with the displays. Use interactive strategies to make the displays learning centers. Encourage students to contribute drawings and written responses inspired by the poem. Then, drawings and writings can be inserted into pockets attached to the display. Velcro-backed objects that students can rearrange offer them an opportunity to play with the poem's meaning and images.

Another interactive activity involves mystery and suspense. Let visual displays provoke students to wonder and ask, "What is that?". Add large-scale, pop-up strategies that spring out, flaps that lift up or doors that open.

Pumping Up

Visual Poetry Displays

Look for poems with images that suggest three-dimensional objects. For example, displays can feature a three-dimensional relief strategy in which a shallow box with a hinged door opens to reveal the text of the poem. Students will open the door to read the poem and can change how the poem reads by sliding a panel attached to the back of the box.

Displays can be three-dimensional or free standing. Use an appliance box or camp tent and print the text of the poem inside. Students can enter this space and read the poem by flashlight.

Some other formats to consider are folding tables and screens, mobiles, columns and papier-mache sculptures. These three-dimensional approaches are portable and especially useful when classroom walls are covered.

Being Alert and

Finding Materials

Materials and supplies, such as colored construction paper, push pins, masking tape and cutout letters are the basics for most bulletin boards, but visual poetry displays use fabric, plastics and garments, too.

The text of a poem about laundry day can be pinned, letter by letter, to a large bed sheet clipped to a clothesline stretched across the classroom. A poem about dancing pants can be installed with a pair of old jeans stuffed with newspaper and suspended from the ceiling. Both of these displays will move with the breeze from open windows and attract attention. Life-size cardboard cut-outs of children with yarn as hair can have the text of the poem printed on their clothes.

Looking for Locations

Bulletin boards or walls are places to begin exploring with visual poetry displays, but a careful look around can reveal more potential locations. An unexpected location can nurture curiosity for an upcoming, integrated unit and give students time to think about the theme or concept to be studied.

Displays for units about color or oceans can be attached to windows. Using transparent materials like colored cellophane can suggest layers of shimmering water or how colors change when overlapped. Suspend a visual poetry display about the weather from the ceiling near an open window in order to add the wind as a special effect. Floors can be carpeted with displays similar to the games Twister or hop-scotch. These displays can be mounted on long sheets of paper or plastic table cloths and rolled up for storage.

Some classrooms are adjacent to playgrounds, so displays drawn with chalk on concrete will remain only as long as the weather permits. Perhaps the experience of these displays for students persists longer in their memories than on the slabs of cement. Installing displays on doors, countertops, under tables or in corners encourages students to look for poetry everywhere.

Tackling the Text

Decide how close students need to be in order to read the text of the poem. Is it important for students to be able to read it from across the room? Do you want to use the visual components to pull students close to the display in order to read the poem? When you determine the appropriate distance for readers, then you can decide the size of the letters. Make sure the letters contrast with the background. Bold, black letters on a smooth, light color, paper surface are easy to ready. Adequate spacing between lines of the poem's text will enhance its readability too.

Hand lettering the text with a thick marker or cutting out each letter or word from construction paper can be time consuming. For a change, generate the text with a desktop publishing program and enlarge it on a photocopy machine. Another unusual effect is writing the text in fabric paint, glitter mucilage or tinted, white glue. With this approach, take care to write out the text in pencil first, and then, proof it before applying the liquid.

Using Creative

Processes as Teachers

Visual poetry displays blend visual arts and language arts in order to raise student's awareness of artistic components inherent in poetry. They encourage teachers to consider the text of the poem and its images while creatively designing an appealing invitation to students to take a closer look.

We look forward to continuing our efforts in urging teachers to rely on their creative processes to help students see the connections between art and poetry in the world around them.

Priscilla Lund is an assistant professor of Art Education and Anne de Onis is an assistant professor of Language Arts at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.
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Title Annotation:classroom design
Author:de Onis, Ann
Publication:School Arts
Date:Dec 1, 1994
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