Symbols of Us

Symbols of Us bulletin board

One of my beginning-of-the-term activities for the last few years has been a student-generated bulletin board that I call “Symbols of Us.”

This year, as you can see in the picture above, I blocked off a portion of my bulletin board with a vertical border. I printed extra-large letters (These are in the Rockwell font, I believe) and colored them in; then, I cut them out and laminated them.

Usually the first or second day of school, I start this activity by going over the definition of the term symbol and give a few examples of symbols. Usually, I draw (poor :/) representations of symbols on the board: the Golden Arches, a peace sign, the Chevrolet logo, etc. Then, I have students generate other examples.

Next, I give students an index card and assign them to draw, cut out and paste, or write at least one symbol of themselves on one side of the card. I allow some time in class and provide crayons, markers, magazines, scissors, glue, and tape.

Many of my students have created elaborate collages of cut-out pictures, pictures of themselves and their family and friends, puffy paint, and glitter. (Of course, there are always some who draw a dollar sign with a pencil in about a minute…)

Once I’ve stapled the cards up (somewhat haphazardly…), I direct my students’ attention to the board and ask them to view it with “soft eyes.”

“Which of the cards stand out more?” I ask. They always lean toward the ones with the most color. We talk about using “vivid” vocabulary in our writing, creating mental pictures with our words.

I’ve found this activity is a great way to draw on student interest, find out more about my new students, and allow a hands-on activity in a class that is mostly not hands-on.

Also, it enables students to apply the world they know to a literary element that is sometimes difficult to grasp. When we begin analyzing literature, we can make the connection between these visual symbols and the intangible ones created in literary works.

Oh, and it leaves less bulletin-board space for me to have to fill. :P


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