As she goes on to say:
Telling stories and remembering and forgetting and associative aspects of memory are things which have been with humans all along. Playing has always been with us. All of the things that we call art or psychology or even the skeletal system were there before they were named. They come with the package of being human. So Freud noticed something, but he didn’t invent it. Noticing and naming it is not what brings mental health in a troubled person. It’s like thinking our immune system works only if we know there is an immune system. The human act of using images to work with what is troubling, what is older than that? The Greeks knew about it. They noticed it and named it, calling it ‘catharsis’. It seems to me this is something that has been noticed and named in one way throughout history, but noticed or not, it still is there and it still works.
Our students have just begun writing for the first time and are looking for people to create images for their stories about animals doing things they don’t normally do. Stories like The Zebra and the Unicorn by Destini Oakley (age 6):
The zebra and the unicorn were friends. One day, they went to the farm. Then they saw the old woman in the middle of the road playing basketball. They thought this was funny so they laughed. But then she invited them to play with her, so they did.
Or It Is Your Destiny to Destroy a Monster by Jamiyah Collins (age 6):
Once upon a time there was a cheetah whose destiny was to destroy the meanest monster. The meanest monster had kidnapped the cheetah’s father! He went to the castle and knocked on the door. The monster woke up and the cheetah scratched him. So the monster gave the cheetah his dad back and cried.
Hopefully, you are as astonished by their abilities as we are. Just as exciting has been their enthusiasm for the project that accompanies their writing-and here’s where you come in- a book that will collect their stories and pair each one with an illustration by a grown-up artist- YOU. The book will be a showcase for the talents of the students as well as those of the artists, while giving both students and artists a tremendous and invaluable sense of large-scale accomplishment and a lesson in publishing and creative collaboration. Each kid will get a copy of the book and we will be selling copies in local bookstores to raise money for future projects.
Our friend Kyle Kabel, the best graphic designer (http://kylekabel.com/), will be designing the book and we’re looking for collaborators to lend their talents to the stories. A drawing, a photograph, a painting- whatever you’d like to do. We want to give each artist two stories and the deadline of February 4 to complete their work.
It is our hope that this will be just the first installment of a continuing project, one that will grow based on interest and involvement. To express your interest or learn more, please e-mail us at
Last year, when Mr. Keller taught 5th grade, some wonderful friends of his out in California had a poster-making party. They used the old fashioned tools (construction paper, glue, glitter, etc.) to make posters that expressed encouraging ideas they hold dear. They put the posters in a big box, shipped them down to Waggaman, LA, and enclosed a note to the kids introducing themselves. Months later, the kids were still asking about their mysterious benefactors, and running the wisdom over and over in their brains. Their favorite was probably a banner that read “You Are One of a Kind.”
Create a poster by hand. Just as in Project 2, it can be encouraging, it can be academic, it can be profound, it can be whatever you think a kid would like to or should see in their classroom.
This project (and to some extent, BIG CLASS in general) was inspired by the Learning to Love You More project, which was
both a web site and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher.
Participants accepted an assignment, completed it by following the simple but specific instructions, sent in the required report (photograph, text, video, etc), and their work got posted on-line. Like a recipe, meditation practice, or familiar song, the prescriptive nature of these assignments was intended to guide people towards their own experience.
It is one of our aspirations that a function of BIG CLASS is to offer the same sort of experience, with the added bonus of working with the innate creativity of kids.
Holy moly, these kids have been awesome the last two days:
Pramela and Dejeanne!
Tamia and Juniya! Tamia wrote an incredible story, while Juniya was very helpful to her friends and such a great listener!
The students of the day are, once again, Tierra and Jamiyah!
Whether it’s reading, writing, or math, these two are always giving their all to get better, every single day. What stands out the most today is that even when they weren’t feeling great or were getting distracted, they pulled themselves together and kept their eyes on the prize- working hard to get smart! Great job, Tierra and Jamiyah!
Today, Mr. Keller asked the students to write 5-sentence stories about animals doing things they aren’t supposed to do. Jasmine’s wrote a particularly great story called The Silly Bird. She worked really hard, creating a bubble chart and a picture to brainstorm, and then sounding out every word the best she could. We then worked as a class on the computer to correct the spelling and turn her single long sentence into five great sentences. The result was a hilarious story. We will all be writing stories like this to put in a really cool class book. Here it is:
Once upon a time there was a bird. He was trying to drive a carriage. He couldn’t drive it because he didn’t try. He got mad so he broke the carriage. He was sad.
Here are our students of the day…
Kenya, Pramela, and Tierra!
They worked really hard today while learning about sequence in storytelling (Kenya is pointing to her sequence cartoon about The Three Bears).