Thursday, April 11, 2019

Artistic Play in the Creative Writing Classroom and Beyond

This morning, I want to record some interesting teaching ideas that I got from the last AWP session attended, "Glitter! Legos! Origami--Oh My Artistic Play in the Creative Writing Classroom."  I got to the session to find out that the organizers of the panel weren't given the AV equipment that they had requested.  One of them created a QR code so that we could access the slide show on our smart phones, and they offered to send us a link to the slides.  I wonder if we will always be able to access the slides:

In case we can't, let me capture some of the great ideas, both from my slides and from my notes.  A lot of the ideas seem like exercises that could be adapted to all sorts of classrooms and retreat settings.

Here was the premise of the session:

"How can teachers integrate artistic play to foster a sense of experimentation? How can experiments that seem like crafts and games short-circuit the fear of risk, encourage play instead, and push student writers to reach beyond the walls of the classroom into a larger community of writers? How can teachers inspire students to take ownership of their learning experiences through hands-on work that feels like play? Do scented markers and glitter really help to get ideas to the page?"

Or, as Traci Brimhall put it, students remember an experience, not your lecture.

To that end, she's created all sorts of experiences for students:

--She's had students explore different settings.  They went to an architecture library and then created structures with Legos.  Students went to the science building and wrote poems about the poet as Goliath butterfly.  

--She has each student learn a craft, like knitting or gardening.  Two thirds of the way through the class, they try to teach the class to do it.  Usually they're failures at the craft, which teaches them something about creating.  And they can be failures together--which means they learn to move away from their fear of failure. They're each doing a different craft, so they're not competing with each other, so they also learn to support each other.

--We also did some poem creating.  We got a handout.  At the top was a long rectangle, with the instruction to write a tercet about love.  In the middle was a long rectangle divided into three squares with the instruction to draw those lines with no words.  The first person wrote the tercet, and then the next person drew in the 3 squares.  We then folded the paper so that the third person could only see the drawings.  The third person wrote a tercet about love.  Brimhall uses this exercise to talk about abstract feelings and concrete objects.

Other presenters offered a variety of techniques.  Alison Peligran does a lot with origami:

--Students write poems on origami paper, fold their poems into shapes, and then leave them across campus, a harmless "vandalism."  She offers this site for learning how to make these shapes, and she recommends the videos.

--Students could make poems into origami boats that they set sail in the water.

--Her students left strips of poems in a huge oak tree on campus.

--She also created a poetry scavenger hunt, where students looked for lines that she had hidden on campus and assembled them into a poem.

She says that transforming the poem into an object is transformative.  Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil agrees.  She said that creating a 3 dimensional object leads us to new places , letting our guard down when creating together.  She talked about creating poems pasted to bowling balls, murals, matchbooks, and of course, the chapbook--there's a slide that shows how to make a staple-less chapbook, but it looks quite complicated, although she claimed it's simple.

I was most intrigued by Nezhukumatathil's snow globe erasure poem idea.  She creates snow globes out of jars, glue, glitter, and a poem inside.  As the clumps of glitter fall on the poem, voila!  an erasure poem.  She gives them to students during week 1, and each week, they shake the globe and get a new poem idea from the erasure.

Brynn Saito also had interesting collaborative ideas, like having students explore stories of Japanese-American immigrants, particularly those who were interred in camps during World War II (read more about the project here).

She has students ask, "What imagined superhero does your community need right now?"  And they write folk tales of the future.

Oliver Baez Bendorf was the presenter who inspired me to buy all of the Lynda Barry books at the bookstore.  She inspired many of his teaching ideas that combine art/doodling/comic making and poetry writing.  He has his students make detailed notes on a specific sidewalk square.  He also has them do walking while working on line breaks in a poem.  They read the line, turn at the line break, read the next line, turn at the line break.  It's a much more visceral way of understanding the way a line break can work.

This session made me yearn to be teaching creative writing again--so many great ideas.  But of course, they can be used in other settings too--or even just on my own.

No comments: