Processing through Art with Pandemic Poetry Tiles

Oftentimes in a community – whether that’s your family, your friend group, or your group of colleagues – there’s a certain balance to the emotions. Some people are feeling stable, happy, ready to support others who might go through a down period. You might reach out to a friend to tell them you’re feeling sad, and they might drop by with a meal and a hug.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Lamott, wrote about this in her book, Traveling Mercies. “She (Ann’s minister) said that the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice and graham crackers.”

These days it’s a bit harder to find someone who’s more-or-less OK. The person with the juice and crackers, and the smile. Everyone is pulled in so many directions – trying to help other people who are struggling, even as they struggle themselves.

We all need a chance to process what we’re experiencing, but where’s the time? Who’s available? Is our need as great as someone else’s that we maybe feel we should put first?

This week I want to share a small way to process through art. A chance to help your students think through their current experiences within the context of the ELA curriculum, since there’s so much pressure not to pause with content in class.

For this digital poetry activity, students will choose words related to the pandemic to connect into lines to express their own feelings and reactions in this moment. I tried to include the words on my mind every day, the words I think are on everyone’s mind. But there are also blank tiles that can be duplicated, for kids to add whatever they wish.

Students can choose from three backgrounds – the #quaranteam background, the masks, or the houses. Whatever feels reflective of their experience right now. Or you could easily let them add a background of their own. All they’d have to do is copy a slide and then click the background button to put in their own image. They could design their own in Canva, custom sized to 11 X 8.5 inches (the slides are set up so you can print them).

Then they just drag and drop words to make their poem, deleting whatever they don’t need.

Once everyone is done, you can invite sharing or let them stay personal. You could print them for a hallway gallery if students are OK with sharing their experiences. You could even turn it into a poetry writing project for the whole school. Simply share the activity with your department and invite everyone who wants to to share to a school-wide digital or physical gallery. You could even share the work with your community – submitting poems to your local news organization and inviting community members to create their own.

Sometimes you can say things with art that just don’t come out with a quick “How’s it going?” or even a serious “How are you really doing?”

I’ll be sending this activity out on Friday to the 49,000 creative teachers I share ideas with each week over email. If you don’t get those emails yet, and you’d like to, you can sign up below, and this pandemic poetry tile activity will be the first thing I send to you.

Sending good thoughts your way in this stressful time. Wish I could airmail you some juice and crackers, but poetry will have to do for now!

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I'm Betsy

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4 Comments

  • Very creative! As a former Literacy Consultant for Early Head Start and a Language Arts Teacher for over three decades, this simple yet thoughtful lesson plan speaks volumes to the emotional side of being able to “read your audience”.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Debi! I’m so glad you think it’s helpful. That’s wonderful to hear!

      Reply
  • Thank you, Betsy! We went online as an emergency response to an Omicron outbreak, and I dreamed all night that what I had planned for today’s Zoom classes was not ‘it’ and I needed some poetry. Imagine my delight when I opened my email at 5:45 this morning and this was waiting for me. A little miracle today.

    Reply
    • Wow, that’s amazing! I’m so glad this was here to help, Mel, though I’m sorry to hear of all the strain on you as your school makes these quick transitions.

      Reply

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