In my seventh grade art class, I’ve used this beautiful picture book, Looking Like Me, by Walter Dean Myers. It is a colorful picture book telling the story of a young boy, and who he thinks he is, as seen through the eyes of the people around him. It is appropriate for k-6, but the themes are so universal, it may be used across grade levels. I use it with seventh graders to analyze the poetry and expressive graphic elements.
Looking Like Me, cover
The images are by Christopher Myers, Walter’s son, and they are in collage and paint. The images are bright and energetic, as is the poetry. The book is told from the perspective of a boy, who is defining who he thinks he is through images and words. He uses descriptions from his sister, mother, grandmother, postman, etc. The results I have gotten in class are wonderful- the children express who they are through poetry and images.
Brief overview of the process:
- We start by reading and analyzing Looking Like Me on a large screen. We draw comparisons between how the author describes himself through words, versus how he describes himself in pictures. We list similarities and differences, while I stress the point that both language and art are equally compelling in expressing who we think we are.
- Students then fill out a Personal Culture Sheet, meaning that they list different attributes of themselves. Categories include family, religion, sports, music, clubs, hobbies and interests, food, clothing, values and expectations. They later use these answers as ideas to start their visual images- but they are not bound by them.
- For the background, we start with thick water color paper and use a cellophane texture technique, where we place cellophane over very wet water color. When it dries we take the cellophane off to reveal a texture similar to stucco walls. (Note: This is very simple and can even be done with first graders- very cool!) Kids love this effect- as do adults I have worked with.
- Students then use a variety of textured/colored paper to make figures- some are full while others are large faces. Most are in action poses, visually describing what they love to do- sports, music, friendship, family ties, etc. Their objective is to create images that represent themselves. They may use the culture sheet for ideas.
5. Lastly, we use a graphic organizer to take raw information from the Culture Sheet and transform that into poetry. This may be done however you like, but I stress the memories, feelings and emotions that are associated with their answers. For example, a student answered that sewing was her favorite hobby. I then asked her what memories does she have of it, and what adjectives and verbs she would use to describe how she felt about sewing. (See image)
When art and words collide beautifully as they do in this lesson, students have the opportunity to truly express who they are. Check out Looking Like Me and let me know what you think. Feel free to share you ideas below.
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