Student’s work focused on the literacy content in their homeroom classroom “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”, by Mildred D. Taylor. A story set in Mississippi Delta during the great depression. It’s about an African American, land owning family who is struggling to stay afloat and survive in the South.
Ms. Wynn felt it was important for her students to not just read the content but dig for deeper meaning. She worried that students were reading but not actually absorbing the true meaning of the literary content.Why were things the way they were at that time? This was a time after slavery was abolished. Where blacks really free? Did they live as equals to whites? What were some situations that occurred during this time that kept blacks and whites separated from one another? Was it an oppressed segregation? And by whom? Are there some psychological implications that occurred after slavery was abolished?
We decided for students to create puppets based on characters from Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Students had to create the puppets based on their own interpretation of the character. Students had to fill in (creatively) the gaps left by the author. Students were asked:
- What role do class or discrimination affect the characters behavior?
- What they are wearing?
- How they look?
- How can you show this in your puppets?
The puppets were made out of paper-mache, fabric, paint, wood & clay. Students were given lessons in:
- Painting-students learned create a color wheel. Students learned how to paint flesh-tones (skin color).
- Paper Mache- students were given a demo on how to create the sizing and application of this artistic process.
- Clothing-students learned to create patterns that were used to make the clothing for their puppets. Students recycled old/used clothing.
Students brainstormed, sketched & designed what their puppets would look like. Students revisited the book several times and documented in their journals their artistic processes. Students wrote a synopsis of their character/puppet. They wrote about their character’s characteristics and how they themselves interpreted it into their own artwork.Students also included their own personal views on how racism is dealt with today.
5th grade presented their artwork and writings to a second grade class. The students described this a positive experience. Some of the students felt that sharing with a younger audience their artwork alongside a brief summary of the Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry would give students and understanding of how important literacy is to art and how art and writing can both be part of not just intellectual but personal growth as well.