This assignment/project was designed as part of an overall Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Journal Assignment for my students; however, I now use it just as often as a standalone assignment, which is applicable to any novel, short story, play, or even narrative poem your students are reading, either individually or as a class.
The lesson focuses on the key reading skill of visualization. GOOD READERS VISUALIZE, but for many students, this skill does not come naturally. This assignment, therefore, has students spend time thinking and visualizing, and then REPRESENTING a character and the setting of a narrative, based directly upon information gleaned from the text.
Students are tasked with creating a collage or drawing (no Internet images or full-page magazine images allowed) that depicts the setting and character. This affords students the opportunity to create a representation of what they see in the mind's eye, but also to create significance and meaning from the student's use of colour, form, placement of people/objects, symbolism of objects, et cetera.
Accompanying their visual representation, students write an "Artist's Statement" that explains the visual choices they made. I stress the illustration should not merely depict the character and setting, but it needs to convey a further layered meaning. The written Artist Statement must not only include two direct and integrated quotations from the literature, but it must explain the meaning and significance created in the illustration. It is this Artist Statement which carries most of the assignment's assessment. (Please note: This is not an art project and I stress that a student's artistic talent is not being assessed. Rather, it is the meaning and significance they are able to imbue into their illustration.)
The purpose of this assignment aligns itself with common English Language Art learning outcomes. In my teaching district: "Students will create thoughtful representation that communicate ideas and information to explore and respond, record and describe, explain and persuade, and engage, and symbolize." This assignment wonderfully meets that objective in an engaging way where students most often feel confident and enjoy creating, displaying, and explaining their representation.
Often I culminate this activity with a GALLERY WALK, where students repeatedly present their artwork to their peers in small groups. This practices their oral communication – and, specifically, their presentation – skills. Moreover, as part of an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) program, this is a fantastic way to engage other students' interest as their classmates "book talk shop" their novel. I usually have students write down three books that appeal to them so that when we next go to the library, they have books to seek out and read.
Included in this zipped 16-page document:
1/ Full, one-page assignment handout to give to student explaining assignment.
2/ Explanation of what a collage is (both written explanation and visual examples)
3/ Five student samples of collages and illustrations (using both magazines, hand-drawing, and mixed media) (with accompanying side notes)
4/ Three pages of student sample Artist Statements. View the illustration and read the accompanying Artist Statement to better understand the image, and students will then, in turn, better understand what is expected of them.
5/ One page assessment rubric.
The majority of the pages are PDFs, designed for displaying on an overhead projector, though they could be printed out if desired. The Assignment Sheet Handout and the Rubric are both editable Word documents, for easy tailoring if you want to make a few tweaks to suit your preferences.
I hope you enjoy assessing these collages as much as I do. I find it is often one of my students' favourite assignments on their SSR novels.