Inspired by Thomas Newkirk's The Art of Slow Reading, I worked with my 8th grade students on individual lines from Anne Frank's text. In our writer's notebooks, we created short lists of self-selected lines of text that we liked or found interesting.
Lines of text could be a full sentence or two to anything clipped from within any piece of text written by Anne Frank.
The challenge was to treat one of Anne's line as a "golden line" of text, to borrow from Kelly Gallagher's Teaching Adolescent Writers. In the past, we have extracted our own lines of texts where we explore what idea, concept, big picture, we were really writing about. Now, we are asking ourselves what idea, concept, big picture, Anne was really writing about.
I asked the students to create a bumper sticker of the selected line of text written by Anne Frank. With this, use imagery to help the reader see the line through your eyes. Avoid imagery that is decoration or window dressing--find a way through imagery, color, text manipulation, to show the reader how you feel, interpret, think about the line.
In his book, Newkirk shares the anecdote about a colleague who, when reflecting on the practice of students focusing on one small piece of a novel asked, "What's next, great inches in art?" I laugh--I'm really fond of that line. However, I have found that by slowing down and opening up the conversation to hear, read, and see what my students hear, read, and see in the text we have found a rich and meaningful experience (in my mind) accessible to all.
My mentor text / bumper sticker (above) included a spelling error in the word "contradiction" that I completely missed! An eagle-eyed student pointed it out to me. Another told me to pass it off as an intentional contradiction. That gaffe aside, my piece includes drawn faces of many different emotions and lines of text behind them--I included many of Anne's emotional statements. It was intended to be a reflection or study of her wide mood swings and tender temperament.
On the back, I included a reflection of the line and the imagery I chose--essentially I am trying to make connections for my readers. I'm digging deep into why this line matters...to Anne...to me...to all of us.
I learned, through a mixed bag of final products, that some of my students struggled with the concept of using imagery, manipulated text, and color as a way to work with the text beyond just decoration. Of course, this leads into all kinds of discussions about media and the influences we encounter everyday online, in the car, on television...everywhere.
In the mix of student work samples below, I included five sample that I felt achieved at least some success visually. You'll find a mixed bag regarding the reflections included on the back of each piece:
It only takes one bomb...
This bumper sticker caught my attention for the possibilities beyond the cranky scrawl of a boy for a couple of reasons--what he observed and the connections he made. The starkness of his lettering on the front feels so appropriate for the plain, somber, message. Furthermore, the student equates the term bomb as a potential metaphor for mistake.
(segment of student text) I choose this quote because it represents something more than a single bomb. Any one movement, one noise, one accident or even as the quote suggests one bomb could spell doom for them all. A movement or noise could alert (illegible) in the shop below, who would turn in the Franks to Nazi S.S. forces.
When will we be granted the privilege of fresh air...
(segment of student text) This quote hit me because we don't normally think of trees and grass as a privilege. We take advantage of things like this and its weird to think that it takes being trapped inside for 2 years for someone to realize this.
I firmly believe that nature brings solace to all troubles...
(segment of student text) This quote reminds me of every sunset I've ever seen. I imagine the sliver of the oranges, yellow sun in the center surrounded by the reds and pinks that blend together until they fade into purples and black. I am reminded of all the places that have the best sunsets, like the beaches in the Outer Banks and the shores in Hawaii and the Chesapeake Bay. As the memories come flooding back I remember the sense of comfort and warmth that sunsets have always given me.
Himmelhoch jauchzend und zum tode betrubt. - Goethe
On top of the world or in the depths of despair.
(segment of student text)...Anne is torn between whether she's lucky or in a deathtrap. The picture I drew "the bird on the barbed wire" symbolizes how the bird is free and on top of the world but if he takes the wrong step and isn't careful he could die. In German "zum tode betrubt" translates into "in total silence." Throughout Anne's diary she is conveying her sadness and longing to be free and happy once again.
What I could be if...
(segment of student text) Her usual hopelessness puts a great weight on five words that sometimes are used for trivial things, but in Anne's world she clung to a perfect place she would live in after being in hiding, that was, if she lived, if she would not be tortured, if she could make it past this traumatic experience mentally sound, but she didn't.
There is no smoke without fire...