Sunday, November 2, 2014

Teaching Mood- Using Art /Teaching Short Constructed Response

Bulletin Board of Finished Humumet Projects 

When teaching mood, the first step in my 8 grade classroom is of course, discussing what mood is and  how it differs from tone. Typically I storm in at the start of class and start demanding in an irritated tone that they get out their books, some paper and that they need to get busy. I try to act extremely grumpy and irritated. I don’t let it go long before I stop and smile and ask two questions.
  1.        What attitude did I have?  (answers range from grumpy to mean to aggravated and others that will go unmentioned ;)
  2.          How did it make you feel? (nervous, upset, angry)

I tell students that my attitude was expressed partly through what I had to say- my tone. How I made them feel was mood. They really seem to get that.

We begin identifying mood with supporting detail using art work. Students examine works of art in small groups, identify the mood and select images/color, etc. from the art work as support. We practice writing paragraphs that use the A.C.E. (Answer/Cite/Explain) or P.E.E. (Point/Example/Explain) method.  This is an interesting and less threatening method to begin identifying mood with supporting ideas, and students seem to enjoy it. I was very pleased with the discussion that occurred as they debated the mood and how the art work supported that mood. 

Examples of Student Response for Mood from Paintings (Using ACE/PEE paragraph method for SCR)

The mood of the painting, The Boating Party, is lighthearted. There are cheery colors, like the baby’s pink clothes and the yellow boat. The mom has a loving, calm look on her face, so you know she’s not unhappy or anything. Cheerful colors and loving expressions give it a lighthearted feel.

The mood of the painting, House by the Railroad, is foreboding. The dark, blue colors make it seem suspenseful. They give off a feeling that something bad happened and that there is a dark feeling in the air. The shadows give off an eerie feeling, which is foreboding.

The mood of The Boating Part is light hearted. I know this because the mom is smiling, the baby is calm and not crying, and the boat ride itself appears to be peaceful. The painting itself is also brightly colored, which suggests a happier mood. This is how I know the painting portrays a light hearted mood. 

Next we looked at various short excerpts  from many YA novels and other sources.  The Raven Boys | Maggie Stiefvater is a great book with many descriptive passages that we used to decipher mood both in small groups and as a class.


We start by reading (and re-reading) and deciding if the mood is negative or positive and then we select the words/phrases that make it so. Finally, students choose a mood word and they continue practice in writing a short constructed response using the A.C.E. or P.E.E. method.

 The biggest issue with finding supporting detail is that after underlining or highlighting all the words/phrases that help to create the identified mood, students sometimes chose the weaker examples as support. When writing a short constructed response, students have a very limited number of lines in which to answer. They needed to choose the strongest examples and I particularly wanted them to be sure to choose the figurative language, identifying it as such, since the writer chose that simile or metaphor to specifically help  create the mood.

 In practicing to choose the strongest examples of word/phrases that help to create the mood, students created  Humumet (hew-mew-met). You can see what Humumet is and where it originated HERE.  (See "Intro" Link)You can also see the blog post that inspired this idea HERE, although tone was the objective in that lesson. (There are several more ideas on this blog post that can be incorporated to  teach either tone or mood,  including the use of  Google Forms to collect student responses). 

In creating Humumet, students had to select the strongest words/phrases that created the mood, boldly boxing those words in.  (We did this on several shorter passages before beginning this 

Next,  using colored pencils, they had to create art work that also depicted the mood. Some choose to depict the mood symbolically and others created the scene the passage described. Students had to defend their art work in a paragraph or more, explaining why/how their image supported the mood of the passage.  In creating Humumet, the art work should not completely cover over/block out the words of the passage and those words/phrases boldly boxed, should remain untouched inside the box. 

Examples of how Key words/phrases are boxed in. 

The artwork should cover the entire page and colored pencils work best since it allows for the picture without obliterating the text.  The idea is that with the picture/coloring and the boxed words- together one can interpret the mood of the passage. 

The above are using The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak

This image used an excerpt from The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Finally, students were put to the ‘test’ and they analyzed text on their own to determine mood with supporting detail from the passage. You can see a couple examples below. I was very pleased that students used key academic vocabulary in their answers and this was a direct result of using that vocabulary from the art work analysis at the beginning to the Humumet projects and the group practice of shorter excerpts. It took approximately two days to complete one Humumet. 

Overall the Humumet project and previous use of artwork allowed those students with weak verbal learning style to see another pathway into the idea of mood and how to identify it. I made sure to reinforce the key academic vocabulary throughout (connotation, figurative language, negative/positive, etc.) and it paid off when it came time to write short constructed response answers.

Bulletin Board Closeups