The Art of Writing

The Surrealist’s Game

This game was apparently played by Salvador Dali and the Surrealist painters in Spain in the 1950s, sitting round with Absinthe and coffee. It works just as well with students of almost any age – though there is a simplified version for young children below.

There is a powerpoint to help you through the details. You can see this played on Video 1.

  • Remind the students of the difference between an abstract and a concrete noun.
    A concrete noun can be sensed through our five sense.
    An abstract can’t be sensed – it’s an idea, or a feeling.
  • Put some abstracts up on the board e.g. boredom, love, war, education…. and ask the students to tear a piece of paper in four.
  • On the first piece of paper, each person should write an abstract noun, just one word e.g. hope. On the second piece of paper, the definition of that noun in the style of the dictionary e.g. a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. They should not repeat the original word.On the third piece of piece of paper, the students write a concrete noun e.g. penguin, and on the fourth, a definition e.g.: feathered bird which lives in the Antarctic and swims in the cold seas
  • When all the students are finished, all the nouns are handed to one student, and all the definitions to the teacher. The student and teachers shuffle the paper.
    Now, the student reads out a noun from the top of her pile, and the teacher reads the definition from the top of his. This is often very funny!
  • Thus we get:
    Hope: feathered bird which lives in the Antarctic and swims in the cold seas
    Penguin: a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
  • Put the especially evocative/funny/interesting combinations in the middle of the table and read it through: the table has written a poem.

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

Perhaps Emily Dickinson was playing the Surrealists Game…

The Feelings/Food or Feelings/Colours Game

This is a simpler version of the Surrealists game which works well with younger children.

  • Ask the children to think of some of their strongest feelings – Anger, Hope, Despair, Meanness, Envy etc and write them on the board with definitions:Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. Despair: the state when you have no hope and think nothing good can happen
  • Then ask them some of their favourite foods and/or favourite colours, as unusual as possible: Verdigris – a colour between green and grey, a rusting colour
    Dahl – a stew of lentils with spice.
  • When all the students are finished, all the nouns are handed to one student, and all the definitions to the teacher. The student and teachers shuffle the paper.
  • The student reads out a noun from the top of her pile, and the teacher reads the definition from the top of his. This is often very funny!
  • Thus we get:
    Despair: A colour between green and grey, a rusting colour
    Hope: a stew of lentils with spice.

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