Responding to literature is something that I, like many other teachers, try to get students to do; however, staring at a piece of blank white paper and trying to think of words to effectively express the many ideas floating around in their minds can be intimidating to most students.
Students automatically think there is a definite right and wrong answer to any question posed by the teacher, and they want to make sure they come up with the correct one, which limits their willingness to try anything new.
In an attempt to change this way of thinking, I came across a way to challenge students of any reading level to visually respond to literature. The use of colors and shapes rather than words or direct drawings seems to be a more comfortable way for students to represent their ideas and feeling, even if they don’t feel very artistic.
Eve Bunting is one of my favorite authors and I like how her story The Wednesday Surprise is written, so I decided to attempt to have students respond visually to this story. Ms. Bunting has the reader expecting the grandmother helping her granddaughter learn to read, but the reader is surprised when at the end of the story, it turns out the granddaughter is the one helping the grandmother learn to read. Following my reading aloud the story, the students and I discussed various ways the book made us feel.
Remembering how the same feeling could be represented in different ways, I led a class discussion on what colors students thought could be used for which feelings. When a student suggested a color, I asked questions to have them justify their answer and attempt to make a personal connection. Following the discussion, students were given time to respond to the story.
As I walked around the room, I observed various levels of concentration. Some students knew exactly what they wanted to do and got started right away, while others appeared to be thinking through the story to see what they could create. As most students were finishing their responses, I asked them to turn the paper over and provide me with their reasons behind the colors, shapes, or symbols used to respond to the story.
As students shared their ideas, I was pleased to discover students seemed to feel like it was OK to use a different color or symbol than the person beside them to represent the same emotion.
Most of the research and articles I have read about using this strategy discuss how it can be beneficial to help students who may struggle with reading, but I had good results with students of all reading levels.
So why don’t you find a book here on Big Universe to share with students and ask them to respond to it … using words or colors ….