World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers with The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Grades 4 and Up
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Leonardo da Vinci’s sage words both introduce World Make Way and serve as a lens for the reader. Edited by prolific poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, this picture book is the result of a new collaboration between Abrams Books for Young Readers and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The book is comprised of eighteen original poems inspired by art from the museum’s over two million pieces dating back over five thousand years of human history. “Reaching deep within their hearts and souls, each poet interprets what they unearthed after viewing a specific artwork” (p. 5). A diverse range of children’s and middle grade poets, including such luminaries as Marilyn Nelson, Marilyn Singer, and Naomi Shihab Nye, respond to paintings and drawings from 14th Century BCE Egypt to 14th century CE Syria, from 19th century Arapaho ledger art to 20th century Columbian. Some poems invite readers to step into the perspective of individuals who inhabit the art; others are ruminations on or responses to the art. As a mentor text for writing, an entry into the world of art and art history, or a celebration of poetry, this beautiful collection has many roles to play in classroom life.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Pairing Paintings or Sketches. After sharing the collection with your students, have them further explore a favorite painting or sketch from the book. First, using tablets or computers, have students search for the painting or sketch using the Met Museum’s search feature in the upper right hand corner of its website. Have students read the entry, and then click on the “Date/Era” dates at the bottom right of the entry. This will take them to the Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . They can explore other art from this part of the world during the time in which their favorite was created. Next, allow students to search for other art from this artist, or other work from this location and time, or other work from this location in the present or from that particular time but in another part of the world. After students have had the chance to explore related content, help them to select a work of art that feels thematically connected to the original, and support them in writing an original poem about this second work.
Introduction to Art History. After students have had a chance to explore this collection, have them identify some of their favorite works of art. Next, have them go to the Google Arts and Culture website to explore their curated collections of Art Movements. Have each student curate a collection of art from an Art Movement of interest, and write a series of poems based on that art. Have students create Voicethreads in which they upload their favorite works of art and record themselves reading their original poems inspired by those pieces of art. Have students share their Voicethreads with one another and the school or larger community. If your school does not have access to Voicethread, you can use Google Slides.
Partnering with a Local Museum or Art Gallery. After exploring this collection with your students, reach out to a local or regional art museum or gallery. Take your students to the museum or gallery to view current exhibits. If you visit a local art gallery or art association, arrange to have some local artists available to talk to your students about their work. Have students select the painting, sketch, or sculpture that resonates the most with them, and have them work on original poems. Host a poetry reading at the museum.
Poetry, Art, and Senior Citizens. Use poetry and art as a way to connect your students to area senior citizens who may feel socially isolated, particularly from young people. Reach out to seniors who live in a nearby senior housing community or who might frequent a local senior center. Have your students share World Make Way with the seniors, and have them talk in partners or small groups about their interpretations of the art and the poem. Next, pass out postcards of artwork from around the world and different time periods and cultures. Have your students and the seniors compose poems together in response to favorite paintings. On another day, bring in a local poet to conduct a poetry workshop with your students and the seniors, perhaps working off of special artifacts and photographs from participants’ lives. Once students and seniors have drafted and revised their poems, bring in working artists to help them create art to accompany their poem. Have a poetry reading and art show at the senior housing or senior center and have seniors and students share their work with the larger community.
Exploring Other Poems Based on Visual Art. After you have explored the collection with your students, have them examine other poems inspired by works of art. Depending on the age of your students, you can use the curated list from the Academy of American Poets or the Academy of American Poets for Kids collection. Find online versions of the art upon which the poems are based, and have students make connections between the art and the poem and the poems and art in World Make Way. What commonalities do they notice? What differences? Students may want to create their own original poems based on the same work of art.
Creating Visual Art from Poems. Fill your classroom with poetry collections, from single author collections to curated works like World Make Way, taking recommendations from your school or public librarian about the best collections for the age range of your students. Have the students explore these collections as well as the poems available online from The Academy of American Poets (including Poems Kids Like) and The Poetry Foundation (including the Children’s section of The Poetry Foundation). If possible, collaborate with your art teacher, or fill your room with a range of art materials, from paper to clay, paints to pastels. Or, coordinate with your maker space or computer teacher to use digital tools, including a 3D printer. Ask students to select a favorite poem about which they will create a piece of art. When completed, have an art show at which students read the poems that inspired their works of art.
Author and Artist Studies. After students have explored World Make Way, divide them up into small groups. Some groups will be responsible for researching the artists whose visual art is within the book, while others will be responsible for researching the poets whose poems are included. Bring in collections of the poets’ work from your school or local library, and have students read widely to identify recurring themes, motifs, or content in a poet’s body of work. Provide the artist groups with access the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Google Arts and Culture. Have them “view” widely to identify recurring themes, motifs, or content in an artist’s body of work. Have students try to articulate their findings over these recurring themes, motifs, and content through original poems, artwork, or both.
Books About Visual Art and Artists from The Classroom Bookshelf
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About Mary Ann Cappiello
Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.
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