leaf poems

Here’re some photos of Chicago Kaleidoscopes teens writing poetry on leaves. Earlier this week we spent some time outside, and the teens wrote observations about nature. Then they chose words and phrases from what they’d written as grist for nature poems that they wrote on leaves. Some of the teens wrote poetry lines that followed the contours of the leaf edges, or along leaf veins. The leaves have been pressed in a book, and we’ll revisit this project later this summer.

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art decks

CK teens have started to create art decks. Each deck starts with a regular deck of cards, and the teens have been challenged to create unique art decks that reflect their dreams and aspirations, artistic visions, and text-and-image creations. Here are some steps that we have been taking:



21st Century Skills

CK teens have been working on developing 21st Century skills this term — including those that help them with team building, job readiness, and college preparation. With that in mind, the teens have been engaging in theater games and role playing activities wherein they explore 21st Century skills:


     Job Interview Role Plays

For this, teens work in pairs to envision what could happen during a job interview. Here are some steps that are taken:

  • Teens are asked to make a list of three to five jobs they might like to have. What kind of job would you like to apply for? Who would you like to work for? What skill sets are expected of someone who is applying for a job at that place of employment? Teens brainstormed these things.
  • Teens work in pairs. They imagine what would happen if one person were the job applicant, and the other were the interviewer. What kinds of questions might be asked? What kind of body language would be appropriate during job interview? They talk through this scenario.
  • Then teens role play these scenarios in front of the class. After each role play, we talk about what parts of the interview role plays seem to go well, and which parts could be revisited in a more professional way.
  • A variation of this role play would be: imagine you want to start a business. Figure out what kind of business that would be. Imagine you need to get a bank loan so you can start your business. Role play a situation in which you are talking with a bank employee; you need to explain to that person why you need a loan to help start your business.


     College Application Process Role Plays

For this, teens work in pairs in a similar way to the job interview role plays, but customized to suit a college application process — to simulate specifics pertaining to choosing which colleges one might apply to. Here are some steps on the process:

  • Think about what you might be interested in studying in college or at a university. Make a list of majors that pertain to interests you have, and potential careers you might like to pursue. Then make a list of three to five colleges or universities you might be interested in applying to.
  • Teens work in pairs. One teen imagines she is a college applicant, and the other person is someone at that college or university (e.g. an admissions counselor, professor, student) who is going to talk with this college applicant about what it’s like to study / teach / work at that college or university.


summer term texts

Chicago Kaleidoscopes is using lots of materials as part of our curriculum — including music, 2D art and videos. Here are some texts that we have used and that will be part of this summer term’s curriculum —

“Magic Poem” by Justice W.


Most people think that writing a poem

is just about rhyme or the way it sounds,

but I think it’s about being able

to feel what the writer is feeling


and get the same point of view as theirs.

It doesn’t have to be about “roses are red”

or “violets are blue.” It can be about

the way you feel, and how others feel too.


Theirs may be types of styles of poems,

but the one u write is your own.

So what are u waiting for? Create your

own magic and put it on paper…



Visual Art & Graphic Design in ChiKalei

Visual art and graphic design are elements that are integrated into Chicago Kaleidoscopes. Here are several examples:

  • We have used visual art as inspiration for creative writing projects that CK teens have developed. Teens have written ekphrastic poetry (poetry inspired by visual art works). Read Faith’s poem “Underwater You Are,” which is inspired by Chicago-based artist Philip Hanson’s painting Poem without Words: Blue Swallows.
  • CK teens design and make their own chapbooks. As they prepare to make their handmade chapbooks, we talk about how graphic design goes into the design and printing of books — e.g. typography, book cover color schemes, and so on.
  • We have talked about how graphic design relates to creative writing and running a business, for instance how graphic design goes into product development and development. Several guest speakers who have talked with CK teens, such as Christen Carter from Busy Beaver Button Co. and Tanner McSwain from Uncharted Books, have facilitated discussions about connections between graphic design, writing, and other aspects of running a business.

Creative writing is one central focus of Chicago Kaleidoscopes, but other art forms and subjects inform CK’s pedagogy. A particular art form can be studied and explored on its own, and it is fascinating when different art forms are brought into the mix — especially when creative teens demonstrate what wonderful arts projects they can develop and complete.

— Dan G.



“Ode to the Atmosphere” by Justin W.


Atmosphere, oh atmosphere,

our kind atmosphere—

without you how

would we survive?

We couldn’t.


Atmosphere, at times you’re dramatic

and destructive, with hurricanes

and tornadoes flying by, sharp blasts

from Lake Michigan in the Windy City.


Atmosphere, oh atmosphere,

at times our calm atmosphere,

with flocks of birds flying

in peaceful blue spring skies.