Grade: Middle
Subject: Special Ed

#3278. Roar-Shack Poetry

Special Ed, level: Middle
Posted Thu Nov 11 16:13:00 PST 2004 by Mechelle De Craene M.Ed. (
Westwood Middle School,
Concepts Taught: Art & Poetry Expression

"Roar-Shack Poetry"

"I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music."
-Joan Miro.

What do you see? This lesson plan is inspired by the work of an ink-blot guru by the name of Hermann Rorschach. Born in 1884, this Swiss psychiatrist once thought of becoming an artist like his father. In the early 1900's he took a deep interest in psychoanalysis which was the pop-psych of the time. Intrigued by the movement he sought to create a way to detect unconscious thoughts. He wanted to prompt his patients to make free mental associations and 'see' shapes and images. Ultimately, he did this through his created ink blot patterns. Alas, Rorschach found a way to merge both his loves of art and psychoanalysis.

However, Rorschach was not the first one who did this. Leonardo da Vinci, Victor Hugo and Justinus Kerner were his famous forerunners. In 1500, Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his Treatise on Painting that he was inspired by looking at 'a wall which is marked with all kinds of stains. If you have to invent a situation, you can see things in it that look like various landscapes. Through confused and vague things the spirit wakes to new inventions'. In addition, many surrealist artists, notably Joan Mirs, have used random or almost random patterns as springboards for creating pictures that feature landscapes and living subjects. Hence, if splotches inspired so many artists, I was hoping that it may inspire some of my students as well.

Okay, now the lesson plan. . .
(This lesson is kid tested, teacher approved)

Art is literacy of the heart"-Elliot Eisner

Learning through the arts has significant effects on learning in other domains and provide compelling evidence that student achievement is heightened in an
environment with high quality arts education offerings and a school climate supportive of active and productive learning (Champions of Change, 1999).

Learning through the arts does not limit students to the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical pathways of acquiring knowledge. Integrating the arts in your classroom holds the potential to combine all of Howard Gardener's Multiple Intelligences and Learning including: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and naturalistic (Gardner, 1983). This complements teaching students who have special needs because it's teaching through a multimodal approach.

The arts enable teachers to reach students not only on an academic level but also on an socio-emotional level. Infusing art into the curriculum helps facilitate a social-emotional connection between teacher and student that may not be found through the pedantic measures of old. Hence, by engaging in the arts both student and teacher can share a holistic aesthetic experience inspiring both student and teacher.

This Roar-Shack poetry lesson works well with especially with students who are emotionally and/or behaviourally challenged (EBD). Expression through art may be experienced as healing. However, many middle schoolers who are Special Ed have their exploratory classes (i.e. art and band) cut to give them more reading instruction. This does a disservice to the kids because it cuts their exposure to cultural appreciation and knowledge. On the other hand, if Special Ed Language Art/Reading teachers (such as myself) work together infusing curriculum into themes discovered though art, rather than as separate domains, students become exposed to the "bigger" picture. Thus, they begin to make connections and see how all things are intertwined.

Time Frame:

Two class periods that may be extend if necessary

Instructional Objectives from Sunshine State Standards:

Visual Arts:
1. Uses and organizes two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, techniques, tools, and processes to produce works of art that are derived from personal experience, observation, or imagination. VA.A.1.2.1
2. Understands that subject matter used to create unique works of art can come from personal experience, observation, imagination, and themes. VA.B.1.2.1
3. Uses the elements of art and the principles of design with sufficient manipulative skills, confidence, and sensitivity when communicating ideas. VA.B.1.2.4.

Language Arts:
1. The student organizes information before writing according the type and purpose of writing. L.A.B. 1.3.1.
2. The student uses nonverbal cues to convey meaning to an audience. LA.C. 2.3.2.
3. The student selects language that shapes reactions, perceptions, and beliefs. L.A.D.2.3.1.
4. The student asks questions and makes observations that reflect understanding of content. LA.C.3.3.2.
5. The student uses literary techniques in written, oral and visual communication. LA.D. 2.3.2.
6. The student understands various elements of authors' craft (e.g. work choice, dialect, invented words, concrete or abstract terms, figurative language, line length, punctuation, and rhythm. LA.E.1.
7. The student selects and uses appropriate formats for writing for the intended audience and purpose. LA.B. 2.3.3.
8. The student uses strategies to analyze words and text, draw conclusion, use context and word structure clues, and recognize organizational patterns. LA.A. 1.3.2.


A large tarp, sheet, or news paper, lots of large white construction paper and tempera paint are the supplies needed for this lesson plan. In addition, I didn't want to make my Rorschachs plain black and white. So, I used blue, turquoise, yellow, white and red and mixed a kaleidoscope of hues. However, tempera comes in a rainbow of already made colors that you can use if that would be easier for you.

Lesson Summary:

To create "Roar-Shack Poetry" your poems must roar! Thus, try to cultivate students to express their voice through writing. To model this phenomena to kids first give them an array of poetry to read. My students have loved the poems of Walter Dean Myers, Niki Giovanni, Faith Ringgold and Shel Sileverstein.

Then show the student an example of a Rorschach inkblot. Ask them to tell you what they see in the image. Of course, the inkblots used in the classroom would not serve as a diagnostic tool for psychometrics but rather as a prompt to evoke the unconscious thought of your students. Also, by delving into the unconscious it may help with bouts of writer block that students may experience.

Next provide direct instruction on how to create their a Rorschachs by modeling
the technique. Take the white construction paper and fold it in half and then splat, drip or ooze paint right on the paper. Close the paper and press down. Then open the paper to your inkblot. Walk around and provide guided instruction as needed. In addition, your students will naturally discover the color wheel by mixing their own colors.

Then after all the pictures are complete and dried have the kids write down all the words they associate with their picture (s). They will construct a poem by connected their free-association ideas together. A unique poem is inevitable to emerge. Next, have them share their "Roar-Shack Poems" with the class by having them create a classroom display with their poems along side their Rorshachs. The colorful mosaic will be sure to make your students proud.

Assessment will be based on participation and thoughtful creativity. Alas, each child should be able to explain his or her connections between their poems and Rorschach images.

"Color is the keyboard,
the eyes are the hammers,
the soul is the piano with many strings.
The artist is the hand which plays,
touching one key or another,
to cause vibrations in the soul."
-Wassily Kandinsky
Have your students to look at their pictures and if ask them to imagine, "If your paintings were music what kind would they be? What would they sound like?" In addition, you can explain the science of the color wheel which will be more accessible now that they have explored it naturally with paint. Talking about Gestalt images and how our perceptions seek to complete them may be very enlightening as well.
Here's some example from some of my students' Roar-Shack Poetry:
(I didn't put their names on this lesson plan for confidentiality issues. The students gave me permission to use all their poetry so that other teachers may learn from them. Also, I wrote the poems in their original kid-speak. You can read into what you will. We all have various perceptions and projections. The important thing is that the students were able to express themselves both through art and poetry. Some of my students who didn't want to write before were coming to me in between classes just to share their poetry).

A jet ran over a chicken.
The chicken was in the runway
Because it was running from twin lions.

The twin lions were hungry
Because they ran away from home.
They were exploring.
They were curious about a chicken.

The chicken egged them on.
Because the chicken thought
The twin lions could not catch him.

Sadness the Strong
One enchanted blue day
The sky spread
From one side of Heaven to another.

From one world to another
We stepped into the doors of hell
Where the undead run free
And consume souls.

The souls were sad in hell.
But in Heaven the young angels
Run free and children see
Their great uncle and grandma.

Gansta Frog
One day a gansta frog went to the beach
and was trying to catch a green.
He didn't want a tan
like people do.
He wanted to get a darker shade of green.

Student Responses to the lesson (in authentic kid-speak):

"Today I was sad about a coin I lost but when I started to paint I took my angry and hate and sadness in just one piece of paper. Then I made a great painting. Then I was happy and maybe if I have another painting maybe I'll have a better day."

"The way I felt when I created the wild life picture is good because I got to use color instead of words to express myself."

"It was fun to get to paint and we had to clean paint off the rug. I will like to do it again."

Burton, J., Horowitz, R. Abeles, H. (1999). Learning in and Through the Arts, Champions of Change.

Ellenberger, H., The Life and Work of Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 18 (1954), 172-219. Reprinted many times; e.g. in Beyond the Unconscious. Essays of Henri F. Ellenberger in the history of psychiatry (ed. M. Micale, Princeton UP 1993), 192-236.

Gardner, Howard (1983; 1993) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books.

Kandinsky, W. (1977). Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY.