Today at Philadelphia Writing Project, we as fellows participated in an activity called Body Biographies. Our pre-institute reading was A Place to Stand by Jimmy Baca. Today we created body biographies based on one of the characters we met in this memoir. We were given a large piece of chart paper and markers and were asked to create a visual representation of our characters using symbols, pictures and words. We were also working with 2-3 other people in a our cooperative group. Each group had the opportunity to choose the character that most interested them from their readings and then brainstorm ideas about representing this character. We were also asked to consider how this character may have changed over time. My group chose to represent mother of Baca and it was amazing how quickly we were able to come up with an interesting visual representation of her in a shape of a body. Even though, some of the other groups also chose this character, no two products looked a like in the end. Each group had a chance to present their creation and it generated a good discussion about the way we viewed the characters.
This would be a great fit for my high school English classroom, where we often look for new ways to examine and understand characters. I envision using this activity with some of the books we will explore this year: Night, House on a Mango Street, The Odyssey, The Adventures of Huck Finn, Romeo and Juliet and Merchant of Venice.
Have you ever asked your students to create Body Biographies? How did you adapt this activity for your classroom? I look forward to reading your responses. Thanks.