Sunday, July 17, 2022

A Visit to the Poe Museum in Words and Pictures

We've been talking a lot this summer about authentic reading experiences and linking books to summer fun. See my PDF on that topic. You may have spent the last few weeks exploring the zoo or visiting a national park or creating science experiments out of fun recipes. You've likely been taking photos of family, friends, exotic places, and kitchen creations. 

But what are you going to do with all of those photos besides posting them on social media?

Pictures tell a story, the story of our lives. So, why not spend some downtime with your kids this summer reliving those wonderful memories and creating a photo album before summer rolls into fall, this year rolls into next year, and those pictures are forgotten. 

Creating captions for photos provides a meaningful and authentic writing opportunity for kids. You can do this the old-school way by taping photos into an album with captions underneath, or you can create a photo album online through Shutterfly, Walgreens, or even Costco.  Start a file on one of those sites and add to it little by little. By the end of the year, you will have a wonderful project that can be shared with friends and family.

I will use my recent trip to the Poe Museum as an example. I recently took a trip to Richmond with my husband and daughter where I had a chance to visit the Edgar Allen Poe Museum there. 

There are many ways to create captions for photos. The most basic approach is to simply use the location and date to create a noun phrase. Next, try taking the same information and adding a preposition to create a prepositional phrase or a verb to create a gerund phrase. Then add a subject to create an independent clause/simple sentence. Add another clause to create a compound sentence. If you want to get fancy, add a dependent clause for a compound-complex sentence.

This activity provides an authentic writing experience with real-world rewards. It also creates teachable moments to talk with kids about the difference between a phrase, a clause, a sentence, and even a paragraph. See my examples below:

Noun Phrase: The Poe Museum, Richmond, VA, Summer 2022

Prepositional Phrase: At the Poe Museum in Richmond.

Gerund Phrase: Visiting the Poe Museum in Richmond. (This could also be a verb phrase based on how it is used in a sentence - "I am visiting the Poe Museum." versus "I enjoyed visiting the Poe Museum.")

Simple Sentence: Carolee visited the Poe Museum in Richmond.

Compound Sentence: Carolee visited the Poe Museum in Richmond, and she bought two books and an Edgar Allen Doll.

Compound-Complex Sentence: Carolee visited the Poe Museum in Richmond,and she bought two books and an Edgar Allen Doll when she was finished with her tour.

I could go on to write paragraphs and more about the Poe Museum, but that might be too much for the family photo album. It could make an interesting FaceBook post or blog article though.

I was intrigued by all of the memorabilia and information about Poe's life. One of the most interesting displays was about his death.  Edgar Allen Poe died under very mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. It was voting day, and he was found delirious in a gutter, wearing another man's clothes. He was taken to the hospital where he spent the next four days making incoherent references to someone named Reynolds. He died without being able to tell anyone what had happened to him. Poe may have been a victim of "cooping," where victims were beaten, dressed in disguise, and forced to vote for a certain candidate repeatedly by using different names. And some worry about voter fraud now! But that was only one of the theories. A display at the museum listed a total of 26 possible death theories including Rabies and Meningitis.

In addition to horror and poetry, Poe wrote science fiction and invented the first detective stories - The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter. He introduced ideas like the least likely suspect and false clues and inspired writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, as well as movie director, Alfred Hitchcock. 

There it is, a recap of my visit to the Poe Museum in words and pictures. It won't all make it into the family photo album, but it's a good example of how a visit to a museum and a few photos can inspire everything from a few words to paragraphs and even books.

Poe has definitely inspired my writing. I did a spoof on his poem, "The Raven," for my verse novel, Forget Me Not. The poem is called, "The Dead Rapper Rap" and it features Tupac as a substitute teacher. Ravens figure prominently in the book and the cover designer even made the girl's hair on the front of the book look a bit like raven wings. Did I mention that my middle name is Lenore? My mother was a big fan of "The Raven."

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