This project requires students to consider the text of a chosen poem and present material objects related to each of the five senses: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. Classmates experience each of these objects and share their responses to the objects as related to the poem text.
Length of Activity
Full Class Period Exercise
Analyze the text of a poem including its themes, motifs, and language.
Consider the feelings and moods that are evoked by the text and translate these into physical objects representing each of the five senses.
Interpret the connections between the text and the objects presented by classmates.
This project helps students understand the power of all five senses in evoking mood. As audience members, our experience of design is not limited to what what we see. This exercise also helps students think abstractly and make choices that are not “obvious” based on the text. Literal choices are less desirable, which helps them understand that going deeper into their ideas makes for more interesting work. By focusing on a poetic text, it makes the work more focused than it would be if it were based on a full play script.
Evoking the Senses: a Poetry Project
Select a poem (for lower-level classes I tend to provide appropriate choices).
This poem can come from any era or any genre (but do not use song lyrics!). It should not exceed one page in length. It can rhyme…or not.
Be prepared to share the poem with the class in the following ways:
Bring in a copy for each member of the class.
Use your five senses and find five material objects (not photos) that convey your personal experience related to the poem:
Something to feel
Something to smell
Something to hear
Something to taste
Something to see
Do not use one object to serve multiple senses. Likewise, do not choose more than one object to serve only one sense. You should have five unique objects.
Avoid directly illustrating the poem. (if the poem involves a feather, don’t use a feather as one of your objects) Try to think of more abstract ways to evoke the senses.
Think about how your classmates will interact with these objects. If that means you bring in individual utensils or small sampling containers, plan this ahead of time.
Your goal is to create an overall mood for your poem that your classmates can experience. The five objects should work together to create a “world.”
You will present the objects during class while reading your poem aloud. Your classmates will respond to your presentation in terms of their five senses.
Be prepared to describe how and why you picked the objects you chose for this project. Each presentation will be followed with a classroom discussion.
Most students will spend one or two hours on this project outside class. Depending on the size of the class the presentation time can vary from 10 – 20 minutes for each student’s project.
Students will provide their own materials. I have also used this project in collaboration with creative writing instructors – their students write poems that are designed to be used in this exercise.
This project could be adapted to be a group project for larger sized classes.
For students without access to a wide variety of materials, you could consider allowing them to provide images, rather than objects, for some or all of the senses.
Students are evaluated via class discussion. All classmates are expected to participate in a group discussion that is focused on their individual experiences and interpretations of their classmates’ projects. More successful projects will evoke responses that are in line with the presenter’s ideas. If there are surprises or unexpected interpretations that arise during this discussion, it is important for the presenter to understand that the moods evoked through the five senses are highly subjective. Points are awarded based on the appropriateness of each of the objects as well as their originality.
-Michelle Souza (with inspiration from Judy Dolan)