Are your kids fed up with “assigned” writing?

Word sculptures

Unhook resistance by playing with language (instead of fighting with it). You’ll be making what are called “word tickets” and then turning them into “word sculptures.”

This activity comes from a terrific little book called, Poem Crazy. I’ve adapted it for our homeschool experience. Hang onto your word tickets! (Keep the ones you don’t use in an envelope or little dish.) I’ll post an exercise called “Scrounged Poetry” later in the week (see update below!) that will build on this activity. For now, have fun with words!

You’ll need:

  • a stack of magazines (you will be cutting them up so be sure you’re finished reading them)
  • notecards or stickies
  • glue stick
  • clear tape
  • scissors
  • your imagination

Your objective:

You are going to create what we call “word tickets” that will be used to create “word sculptures.”

What to do:

Page through the magazines looking for words. Any words will do. Don’t edit your choices. Just dive in and start cutting. You are picking single words or two to three word phrases that pop, that engage you in some way.

Cut out the words or phrases.

Select words and phrases for 30 minutes to an hour. Keep them in a little stack.

Glue them to cardstock or notecards so they are sturdy. Cut them to the size of the word or phrase.

Next, collect some items and bring them to the kitchen table. You can tape the word tickets directly to the items in your home or you can tape them to sticky notes and then put the post-its on the items. Whatever works best for you.

You will put your word tickets on potted plants, photographs, coffee tables, candles, the crock pot, a bowl of fruit, the window, the TV, the soap dish, the handle of a door, the side of a chair, above a lock, next to the fireplace or on the screen of the computer. Notice what your word tickets do to the items in your house and allow yourself to see those items with new eyes.

A clothing catalog can be an incredible source of quality words such as:

sparkling sequins
stuff sack included
fresh tangerine
Traditional European
snappy little colorsplash
Asian elegance

Here are some combos the kids and I came up with:

Sparkling sequins taped to my globe

fresh tangerine labeling my teapot

snappy little colorsplash sat under my birthday flower arrangement sent to me by a good friend

Asian elegance next to my car keys

avid taped to chop sticks

mosaic light next to my votive candle set

Play around with it. If you or your kids don’t like where one word is, move it. You can also combine words if that adds texture or insight or nerve to your label. You might find that you want to tape words to items that can’t be moved to the kitchen table. Walk around the house and stick words everywhere!

Traditional European might look just right under a certain photograph or painting in your house.

handmade sits next to my computer

brave was taped to my window.

nearly naked was stuck to a print by Matisse

Feel free to wander through your house taping labels to furniture and brick-a-brack.

Label things strangely:

rib-knit on a bag of chips

stuff-sack included on a wine glass

Put nouns with verbs (combining word tickets):

car keys jump

chickadee stumbles

Have fun! Post your word sculptures in the comments section of the blog.

UPDATE: Here’s the Scrounged Poetry post!

12 Responses to “Are your kids fed up with “assigned” writing?”

  1. Cindy says:

    Great game.. reminds me too, of the little magnetic poetry game we have- with lots of words and the boys make up imaginary lines with the little words… it is easier to get creative when the words are right in front of you!

  2. JodyC says:

    We had such fun with this, Julie! My kids didn’t know what they’re crazy mom was up to when I asked them to cut *describing words* from magazines and catalogs. Here’s where some of our words landed…….

    “serious workload” taped to the computer
    “older” and “stress free” is taped to this mom!
    “holiday shimmer” is on a Xmas picture
    “refresh” is on the kitchen faucet
    “merry and bright” taped to a candle
    “energy saving” is taped to another candle
    “stark beauty” taped to Seth’s back
    “relax” is taped to Grace’s bed
    “rich and luscious” taped to a candy bar
    “special” was taped to John

    We didn’t go to quite the fuss that you did, Julie, since we just taped our words directly onto the “sculpture” instead of putting them onto cards and etc.

    After this fun exercise, we did a free-write since the discriptive juices were flowing. We had a good time reading those aloud to each other. Thanks for the fun language arts idea! Keep ’em coming!


  3. Julie Bogart says:

    Jody thanks for posting your results! I love “holiday shimmer” on a christmas card. That says it, doesn’t it?

    “stark beauty” on the back of a child. I love that. I almost feel that strange sense of nostalgia that makes my eyes water. We can see stark beauty in our children’s bodies – the way they are shaped so perfectly and they look healthy and strong.

    These are wonderful. you’re off an running!

    Tomorrow I’ll post the follow-up activity that goes with word collecting. You’ll be good to go!


  4. Jan Connolly says:

    We had such fun making the word sculptors too! I was really impressed with some of their creations.

    Too sweet – on the guinea pig cage

    Hitcing a ride – on the sit on bouncy hoppers

    Football party- on a lager glass with a ball in it

    Express delivery – on a tray with pictures of hot balloons

    Our brothers and sisters? – also on the guinea pig hutch

    Shattered dreams – on the alarm clock

    Many thanks for this suggestion.


  5. Julie Bogart says:

    Good for you!

    Fun to think of a “football party” in a lager glass. Perfect.

    “Express delivery” on a tray with balloons makes me think of celebrations.

    “Shattered dreams” on an alarm clock is my favorite—it’s a great image for poetry….

    Lots of good ones!


  6. Gwen says:

    We enjoyed the Word Sculptures too! I’m still thrilled at all the little labels on our stuff. My 13 y.o. son who hates to write (physically) had the most fun looking for the words and putting them together. He put “a Medievel Greeting” on our front door. A tip for anyone planning to do this: Birds and Blooms and the seed catalogs have great words! We found humdingers and everblooming and pink mist among others. My granddaughter’s photo now has a label which says “everblooming wrapping.” Isn’t that precious? “May include Ribbon” graces my daughter’s sewing machine. One very interesting thing to watch was the visual children picking the colorful words and arranging them in certain ways on the cardstock. Our 5 y.o., who can’t read yet decided to pick all red words. What a wonderful activity for all ages.

  7. Michelle in AZ says:

    I found your site through our homeschool message board. Here’ our version of word sculpture, using phrases from Family Fun Magazine.

    Word Sculptures

    The prize – pantry door
    Chow time – refrigerator
    Best kept secret – pipe cleaner drawer
    A Great idea – the kitchen table
    Family Fun – Mom (I’m proudly wearing this title!)
    Simply smashing – Mom’s journal
    Her own – my 3-year-old’s toy basket
    For the birds – a picture of some quail
    Cheesy – my husbands mounted buffalo head
    Off the leash – a bear skin rug on the wall
    Color Wonder – photo of flower garden
    Smart spot – homeschool bookshelf
    It’s roomier – bedroom door
    It’s a blast – computer
    Sweet dreams – bed

  8. Julie Bogart says:

    Thanks for even more examples of this exercise! I love the idea of using Family Fun magazine as a source for words.

    I loved the “everblooming wrapping” in Gwen’s list.

    Keep those words coming!


  9. Lora WolKe says:

    Dear Julie,
    We actually skipped the first part of word sculptures and just did the poems. I felt like I couldn’t handle a mess of words everywhere. moms of small children will understand! Anyways, studying our pictures and playing with our words was a blast! We were all laughing together and the kids were being very silly.
    Here is a poem that my 11 year old did. His picture was a rocky creek with a waterfall.

    organic bountiful


    for the mind

    fairy tale

    Then my other kids worked on one together. the picture was a sandy desert scene:

    go go ahead
    out there


    ultimate star wars

    hot galaxy

  10. Kristen Shields says:

    This and the poetry sounded like so much fun! I took another twist on this with my three year old, a magnetic poetry set, and some Highlights magazines. I’m not sure how to share pictures with you, so I am hoping this link will work.

    Thanks for your wonderful suggestions! As a mom who always wanted to be a writer, this gives me a renewed hope for creating a writing lifestyle for myself, and someday for my kids.

  11. […] poetry.” I’ve designed a variant version: “Scrounged Poetry.” Using your word tickets, let’s see what kind of poetry we can […]

  12. […] so many of you enjoyed the word sculptures and scrounged poetry […]