I just returned from the National Association for Gifted Children convention, a venue I haven’t visited in several years. I came home with questions (Like, how did my friends go from young bloods to senior scholars when time seems to have flown by?) but also with lots of new ideas and resources. For the next few weeks I’ll be sorting through them, but for now let’s start with a fabulous book for art and language arts activities, Hanoch Piven’s My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks.
The book is told in the voice of a young girl, but the processes she uses can be the basis of creativity for all ages. When the narrator was dissatisfied with her drawing of her family, she decided to improve it. No plain drawing of her father would suffice, when he is jumpy as a spring, playful as a spinning top, and as stubborn as a knot in a rope. Clearly the book can be used to teach metaphor, but Piven takes it one step further. She creates object portraits of each character, so in this case, Dad is literally made from a spring, a top, a rope, etc.
The book continues with object portraits of the whole family, and ends by encouraging readers to think about objects that could represent their families. What objects might represent smart? Strong? Scratchy? Young children can make object portraits like those in My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it should be limited to elementary aged students. Consider the how older students could bring more sophisticated understanding of metaphor into the creation of object portraits, either of people they know or of historic or literary characters. For inspiration, just watch.
The endpapers of this book are full of object portraits made by children in the oncology department of the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel. I don’t know what could inspire us more.