Mind Mansion Poetry Projects
During my second year of teaching, I heard a song on a Christian radio station by NF (who has since had songs played on mainstream radio as well!) called Mansion. As I was listening to the lyrics, I was blown away by his use of an extended metaphor and it sparked my imagination to create a poetry project in which all of my students would create their own "Mind Mansions"!
This project has become "the project" that all my students walk away from my classroom loving. I have students in younger grades tell me they can't wait to complete the Mind Mansion Project after they see our class perform their poems and display their boards. I have students who absolutely hated poetry and after this project, they had actually developed an appreciation for it. Students who think they are not good at writing have come out of this project with greater confidence because this project gave them an opportunity to write in short, but expressive phrases about topics that they love. My artistic students have enjoyed painting, drawing, and digitally creating images for their boards. My musically talented students have rapped their poetry during performances, adding beats and just having an absolute blast sharing their work. Even my kiddos on the autism spectrum adore this project because they get to write about anything at all that they want. I once had a student create his entire Mind Mansion about his love for John Deere tractors!
Many of my students have continued writing and sharing their poetry with me, longggggg after this project ended (and might I say, their writing is truly incredible!). A number of my students take their Mind Mansion boards home and hang them in their bedrooms (because it is a collection of writing and images that define them). I have had students use this project as a platform for sharing their deepest struggles- ADHD, depression, and self-confidence issues. I have seen students use their poetry to share inspirational messages, stories of hope, and expressions of forgiveness and gratitude for their fellow classmates. Every year, I look forward to this project because I learn SO much about each and every one of my students.
The project instruction manual is now posted on TPT and it can be used at any point in the school year. I usually save it for the end of the year, but only because we are writing poetry all year long and I use it as a culmination of our best work. If teaching poetry throughout the year is not something you typically do, then I would use this unit MUCH earlier in the year to build community in your classroom! The project itself takes about a month to complete. It covers a wide range of Common Core Standards and it engages students in in-depth revisions, analysis of their own work, and it requires them to demonstrate their understanding of poetic devices, figurative language, and poetry structures.
In my TPT product, I do not reference NF's Mind Mansion song because it wouldn't be appropriate for all classrooms. The song (see some of the lyrics below) references the effects of abuse and neglect, which might be too much for some students. I work in a school where we can openly discuss these issues. We also are a Christian school so we can have fruitful conversations about where God (who is also referenced in the song) is when we feel alone and trapped.
If you don't think playing the song would be appropriate in your classroom, you can at least quote some of his lyrics to show students how NF uses metaphors and personification to express himself!
"My mind is a house with walls
covered in pain
See my problem is
I don't fix things
I just try to re-paint.
I built this house
because I thought
it would be safer in there
But it's not
I'm not the only thing living in there.
Fear came to my house years ago
I let him in
Maybe that's the problem
Because I've been dealing with this
I thought he would leave
But it is obvious he never did
He must have picked a room
and settled in."