When teaching students literature I often use the cliche: “a picture paints a thousand words”, then turn it to a task by saying “as this is not an art lesson sometimes we need a thousand words to paint a picture”. That is how I started a lesson this week teaching Skellig to a class of Y7s. It was not a terribly inventive lesson, but the second of two lessons on one day so I wanted a creative element. We took a range of quotations from chapters of the book which described the garage (if you have read Skellig this will make perfect sense, if not suffice to say the garage is in disrepair) the homework was to use those quotations, as a director might when making a film sequence, to design the set. This could be done conventionally (using paper and pencils) or, as any true Coetail student would offer, using an iPad/computer programme to create the image if preferred. It wasn’t long before one student had come back to me with the next stage: “can I make it on Minecraft then take a screen shot?” The answer was, “of course, that would be great!”.
So I thought this week’s ideas about pictures should be linked to that class, and it was quite easy to think of the image(s) that I wanted to work with.
The image I want to consider / challenge is that of an angel – the character is Skellig. The lesson will come later in the novel when the students are given to ask questions about who or what Skellig is. Initially it is assumed he is a down and out, living in the garage as a sanctuary, but as the narrative continues we are led to clues that suggest he may have wings and eats insects and small animals.
I’m something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel
The doctors and nurses who together save the life of Michael’s baby sister
The character of MIna who opens Michael’s mind to creativity and thought:
Or the character of Skellig which is most unlike any typical image of an Angel:
with these four visuals I hope that a discussion about the nature of angels can be inspired.
I will start the lesson with asking students to title the images, then discuss the captions that they have given to each. The lesson will aim to open up a discussion on the concept of angels (music form Robbie Williams to support).
P.S. Whilst on the subject of visual literacy, I just love this blog post that a friend shared via Facebook (although the title Visual hyper-distillation of iconic storytelling is a bit pretentious). I intend to use the concept at some point but for a wider reading project later in the year. Simplification is a great idea; this would go with my reductionist activity – reduce the story to 9 words, 3 words, 1 word.