The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Empowering Expressions"
Empowering Expressions
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Using Art to Express Emotion

For this exercise, have paper and colored pencils or markers for drawing.

Read the Story: 10 minutes
As a group, read aloud Andrew Ng’s “Empowering Expressions” (p. 8), taking turns. Let teens pass if they don’t want to read.

Discussion: 10 minutes
Ask the group what two stories about art Andrew tells. [One, he saw a mural and responded to it by imagining what the artist was feeling. Two, he tells about how he was bullied and channeled his sadness and anger and frustration into a drawing.]

Ask your youth if they’ve ever had an experience like Andrew’s with the mural, where a book, movie, picture, song or anything else pulled them out of their life into someone else’s experience. Ask them to describe what the piece of art was and how and why they connected with it.

Activity: 20 minutes
Now, ask teens to make their own art out of something difficult they’ve been through. It could be a drawing, a poem, a song or rap lyrics, a short story, or a skit.

The only requirement is that it responds to the experience they’re thinking of. Andrew responded to teasing by drawing a spider web, so it doesn’t have to be literal. The point is to capture the emotion in their creation.

Show and Tell: 10 minutes
Invite anyone who wants to share their piece with the group. Encourage the youth to continue working on their projects at home, or explore using art to process other difficult events that still bother them. Point out that art-making can give people power and control over their lives. By transforming your experience into a creation, you make it yours.

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