I spent the afternoon at Arts Camp doing brainstorming/wordplay sessions with three groups of kids. I was there to try to prime the creative pump for the rest of the week's song writing sessions, which Dana will doing with them.
Despite some craziness (not an easy working space, some rambunctious kids in second group, and some VERY rambunctious kids in the third group) it was a lot of fun. I wanted to get them thinking concretely and metaphorically, without telling them that's what we were doing. I used one of my favorite group writing starters, where I have the kids think about a particular season ~ summer, of course, for today ~ but to think about it in terms of what it looks like, sounds like, tastes like, smells like, and feels like. I also threw in color associations and got them to think about what the season would look like and wear if it was a person. For one group, when things were petering out, I tried to get them thinking about how they'd sell summer if they could put it in a bottle. (One little girl said she'd put lots of grass and flowers in the bottle.)
It's always interesting to see where children's minds go. Their creative and imaginative leaps are fascinating. But sometimes equally fascinating is how pedestrian kids can be (and adults too, this is an equal opportunity challenge) when you ask them to try to come up with descriptors, one reason I like to push it back into the realm of the concrete whenever possible. Even after we brainstormed a whole page full of rainbow colored words and images -- most of them highly specific and related to various senses -- when we got to the part where we were putting lines down, there were kids who wanted me to write things down like "summer is fun" or "summer is pretty." How is it fun? I pressed them. What makes it look pretty?
Like I said, this is an equal opportunity challenge. Left to ourselves, we often run straight toward the easy, vague words that mean so much they don't mean much at all. The kinds of words that balloon over you like a tent, covering a lot of ground. I'd rather hear the snap of the tent as it's unfolded and the banging of the hammer as the tent pegs get smacked into the ground. And I use that image purposefully, because one of the kids, when I asked him what summer sounded like, answered "bang! bang! bang!" When I said, "what makes that noise?" he said "the hammer when you hammer tent pegs in when you go camping!"
Sound words were a definite hit with the younger kids. If I'd had more time, I would have played more with onomatopoeia. One of the sounds of summer that kept coming up was fireworks. So with the youngest group, I asked them to make fireworks sounds. They came up with "kaboosh!" which worked its way into their poem. "Summer says 'kaboosh!' like fireworks."
A fun day. Or maybe I should say a day that sizzled like sparklers.