Saturday, June 5, 2010

How Do You Feel?

That's "Weary Willie", the morose Depression-era clown character created by the brilliant Emmett Kelly, and together with a handout I took from and modified to suit me, formed the basis of a lesson plan for the second grade that went really, really well. When they come into the classroom, Willie is on the screen. I ask them what feeling or emotion is showing on his face.

Inevitably, "sad" is the first answer. As a side note, I am pleased that so many students in my classes have become willing even to answer without being singled out. Next I ask what other words they know that describe the same feeling. I wait until I get about four or five different answers. Interestingly, "blue" is one of the earliest answers, even though it is quite idiomatic.

Next up, I have a handful of other photos with people showing clear emotions, and the groups compete to list the greatest number of terms or synonyms to describe each picture's emotion. "Exercise your vocabulary," I tell them, "increase your word power." The whole point of my starter activity is to encourage using English, in some fashion.

Section two is a video of Don McLean's "Vincent" that I got from YouTube that some fine fellow had matched with van Gogh's paintings. Onto this, I overlaid the lyrics of the song and asked them to pay attention to their feelings as they listened and watched. Though I knew they were familiar with van Gogh, I was surprised how many had heard the song before--a few could even sing along a bit.

In section three, I showed a series of paintings and asked them to tell the emotion they felt in response to seeing it--not the feeling in the picture, but the feeling in their heart. They went "ooh" or "ahh" or "와이" so they could not pretend they didn't have an emotional reaction. I think having these pictures in the right order matters a bit, so I started off with a painting of a coconut palm grove with a hammock in it, the sea and a blue sky prominent in the background.

Painting #2 was "Automat" by Edward Hopper, eliciting words like lonely, isolation, darkness. I get a feeling of "tension", but no one ever says this. When it comes to how you feel, you can't really be wrong. Right?

This one gets the most emphatic response:


The final activity is a writing handout. The handout tells them what to feel, their job is describe the situation. It's in two halves, taken from the Lanternfish "What Bugs Me" handout. I cut it in half, changing the bottom part to be about things that make you feel good.

It was here (the last fifteen minutes--about one minute per sentence) that I was most impressed by these students. They were so honest in writing about conflicting feelings in dealing with their parents, classmates and best friends, I was pleased to get a snapshot of their inner lives as they try to become young adults.

After this lesson, how do I feel? Enlightened, and refreshed.

No comments: