EARJ Middle School Chalk Mural Project
by Andrea Buffara, Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro
Reading evokes powerful memories for me. The reason why I loved to read was because I felt transported to different times and different lands and could pretend to be characters from novels. I could live many lives in the comfort of my own home and did not need to go far to get conveyed to a different reality. One of the first books I vividly recall was the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and being swept away to the magical land of Narnia. I remember that as I grew older, I became fascinated by different topics. I was a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fan in elementary school. I evolved to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. As I got older passionate struggles took over. I suffered through 912 pages with Kunta Kinte in Roots and wept when reading Flowers for Algernon. Nathaniel Hawthorne’sThe Scarlet Letter caught my attention because it was taboo in some places. I read voraciously and widely and it is that love of reading that I wanted MS students to experience.
How do we do that? That is the million dollar question. How do we generate passion?
Forcing people to do things does not create love or passion. On the other hand, stimulating them and exposing them to experiences with choice and freedom might do the trick.We have to strive to be creative in how we captivate and engage students. In our summer reading assignment, MS teachers gave students the freedom and leeway to choose books to read over the vacation. Upon their return, students were asked to share their reading through a chalk mural project. Students were asked to draw a favorite scene from a novel or share a pivotal point in the story. The drawings were done along the balconies and walkways of the MS in colorful chalk. As students drew, the chatter was incessant and students shared with excitement the books they had read with each other.
Here is a sampling of their eclectic taste….
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, various different books by Roald Dahl, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Agatha Parrot and the Floating Head by Kjartan Poskitt and David Tazzyman, Beauty Queens by Lipba Bray, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, The Recruit Cherub by Robert Muchamore, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and many more!
We turned the whole experience into a contest and an advisory from each grade level with the best collection of drawings won a certificate of creativity. In 40 minutes the kids created wonders!
The mural project was important because it taught students how to visualize and make pictures of what they were reading. The ability to make movies in one’s mind is what makes reading pleasurable and releases the imagination. Seeing the students laughing and talking and sharing made me realize that reading still has a place in student’s minds and hearts. A little creativity goes a long way in captivating them, subtly guiding them in the direction of a love and passion for books!