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Activities for Middle and High School Students

Center of gravity writing

Select a work of art and look at it closely for several quiet minutes. Write whatever comes to mind for two minutes. Take a one-minute break, look back at what you wrote, and circle the most important idea. Taking that idea as your starting point, look back at the work of art and write freely for two minutes. Again, take a one-minute break, circle the most important idea, and repeat the two-minute exercise one last time. Use this writing as a draft for a more finished piece or as a jumping-off point for a class discussion about how each person experienced the work of art and the mental journey they took as they looked and wrote. This exercise was adapted from one developed by the writer and educator Wendy Bishop (see Bibliography).

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Color description

Select a color in a work of art. Begin with the basic name of the color (for example, yellow, red, blue), then work to refine its description. To further describe the color you have chosen, discuss the following: What does it remind you of? Where does it occur in nature? What other objects are that color? What mood or feeling does the color create? Use these words to create a unique phrase describing this color. Several phrases can be used together to create a collaborative poem.

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The Elaboration Game

Select a work of art and look at it carefully for several minutes as a group. One person begins by identifying a specific section of the work and describes what he or she sees. A second person contributes to these observations by adding more detail. A third person elaborates further, and a fourth person adds even more. Each person describes what he or she sees, leaving their interpretations for later. After four people have described the section in detail, someone else identifies a new section to be explored and the process begins again. Repeat until everyone has had a chance to make detailed observations or until all sections of the work of art have been explored. Continue the discussion with interpretive thoughts. During the observations, a recorder (teacher or student) writes down some of the key details and observations. Use these words and phrases as brainstorming for further writing. This exercise was adapted from the “Artful Thinking” approach to responding to works of art, developed by Project Zero (see Bibliography).

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