I teach multiple subjects at my small school, because I have multiple certifications in several subject fields. One of the classes I teach is Visual Art. I just started a new trimester with the 9th and 10th graders, and I gave them their first assignment today. They have to choose song lyrics to respond to visually, using a high-contrast accordion book format. They also have to pick a song that has “acceptable for school” lyrics. I tell them that they will not shock ME with content or “wordy durds,” but that they probably WILL shock their parents and/or the school administration – so it is better to avoid risky material, and choose something a little safer. School is, after all, an artificial environment that perpetuates the myth that people never fight, do bad things, or cuss. Ever.
Then, students create a “storyboard,” or a planning sheet with small sketches of what they think that they would like use on each page to respond, illustrate or visually interpret their chosen song’s lyrics. Images primarily, but also some LIMITED text is acceptable. This lets them know (or at least get an idea) about how many pages their accordion book might need, but changes and edits are allowed, of course. Images can be objective (recognizable objects) or abstract, or stylized, or cartoonish, or whatever they like. Then they are ready to make the accordion book and begin crafting.
An accordion book, for those of you who have never made one, is a self-supporting (which means it displays itself well) book that the students can fairly easily make themselves. It requires two pieces of cardboard that are the same size for the front and back cover of the book. This size will also be the size of the book’s pages. Then, they need a long strip of paper as tall as the cover pieces are tall. The length of this strip varies according to how many pages the student needs to interpret the lyrics of their chosen song. Glue the strip to one piece of the cardboard to make the front cover of the book. Place on the front cover the song lyrics, in a format that will fit into the space: enlarge or reduce the font, select particular verses you want to illustrate or interpret, and leave others out (perhaps). Then, fold the strip back-and-forth to make the pages, keeping each page the same size in width as the width of the cover piece: this is what makes the book an accordion, the back and forth connected pages. Fill each page space with one “scene” of the song’s visual interpretation, using as many pages as you need. Glue more paper strip on if you need to, so you have enough pages.
I like to illustrate in high-contrast black, or any other single color, with perhaps one accent color to contrast with the over-all basic one color I use everywhere else. When I use full color, somehow the illustrations are just color, and have far less impact than they do when I complete them in high-contrast.
Complete the illustrations/visual response/interpretation of the song lyrics on the book’s pages, and at the very end, glue the back cover piece of cardboard to the back side of the last page. Trim off any extra paper strip. The front and back covers stiffen the paper strip pages enough that the book stands up by itself, creating its own display of the page content. Have students critique each other’s work, discussing what might have made the piece stronger or better.