Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Atmosphere Day Two

Today I reviewed literary devices and atmosphere with the kids. I asked them what each was and was pleased when they were able to answer correctly and have a decent discussion about atmosphere. We talked about "It's Fall" and what words conveyed atmosphere. We also began to think about books and authors who have "sucked us in" through their use of atmosphere.

This led to me to the point of asking, "Are all atmospheres the same? What are some differences?" The kids obviously knew there are differences in atmosphere, but I decided to take it one step further. The book we read yesterday immersed them in Autumn, but not necessarily into a situation. I wanted the children to appreciate the fact there are scenes and situations that lend themselves to atmosphere.

I had them close their eyes (there were some who wanted to peak, of course :oP) and imagine they were in a stadium of their choice, at the end of a game. I suggested football, baseball or soccer and had them think about how they were feeling, knowing their team was behind, but in the last seconds of the game, they had an opportunity to win. I had them "look" around and take in the sights. I had them "smell" and "feel" and "listen to" what was happening. Then, I told them, with three seconds left, their team scored and won!! How did they feel now?

I had them open their eyes and we discussed the feelings of anticipation, excitement, fear. We talked about the smell of food in the air from the vendors, the press of bodies jumping in joy as their team won. We heard the roar of the crowd as their team came away victorious. We felt the chill in the air and saw the people wearing body paint. It was exciting and thrilling and the kids were anxious to share everything they "experienced".

I reminded the kiddos that game day is Saturday, but that it was now Sunday and they needed to close their eyes again. I told them they were now sitting in church and I wanted them to pay attention to those same details as before, the sights, sounds, smells, and the way they were feeling.

It was interesting how this simple exercise brought them back down. The enthusiasm and excitement the kids were bubbling over with was more subdued once we "went to church". Although they were still excited by the activity, they were no longer running on "adrenaline" from the thrill of the win.

Most of the kids mentioned the feeling of peace, quiet and reverence. A couple mentioned boredom and some mentioned a feeling of spiritual uplifting. We also talked about the smell of the candles and of the hymnals and Bibles and the sounds of the choirs and the pastor/minister/priest's voice.

We were able to compare the two atmospheres and once again thought of some books that have been particularly appealing and why. We moved from this little mini lesson to our lit circles where I continued the discussion based on the book each group was reading.

I feel this lesson went very well and I can't wait to read tomorrow's book to them. It's Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack and it is POWERFUL! The story is about a young girl named Tricia who is being raised in the Jim Crow south. All she wants to do is get to her "someplace special" but to do so she must first hold her head high and deal with all the racial inequalities she encounters along the way. The book always leaves me in tears by the end as it is SO beautiful. The atmosphere of this story is so potent I sincerely hope the children are able to feel it as deeply as I.

(For those of you interested in Mom's take on the story, you can read it here.


Jess T said...


You are one of those memorable teachers! :) Good job!

Jen said...

wow. if only more teachers would get the kids thinking and participating like you are