Zom B English and Art Department Collaborative Project, Part 2

Zom B cover
Category: Reading

Catherine Wylie, an English teacher at Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire used Authors Live: Darren Shan as a central part of a cross-curricular project with the Art department. They used Darren’s novel Zom-B and the work of artist Joseph Cornell to explore character. Here she tells us about the collaboration.

To find out more about how the project came about, read Catherine’s first blog

While pupils read Zom-B, during week three of our project, Douglas, the Faculty Head of Arts, formally introduced the artist Joseph Cornell to them. The vocabulary that he introduced included: surrealism, assemblage and juxtaposition and the class were shown images of Cornell’s work – beautifully constructed boxes that included found objects, cut outs and text.

The images that were key included:

These images were discussed with others and linked to the students’ knowledge of Pop Art and Peter Blake in particular. Douglas also referred to Andy Warhol, repeated images and advertising that they might have come across. With all of this he included biographical elements that might intrigue them.

The class were then told that we would like them to construct boxes, like those created by Cornell, as a response to Zom B. The box would represent B. They were keen to try it.

Watching Authors Live: Darren Shan was a key component of the project and arrangements were made for the class to watch it with me rather than go to their normal English class.

Back in the English department – group discussions

Week Four of the project and we were back in the English department. The majority of the class had raced through the novel. One had even persuaded a parent to order the sequel Zom B: Underground. Gender had become a huge issue for them, as well as racism.

In class they were put into groups using the Standard Grade Talk model – two boys, two girls, with one pupil acting as a reporter. Their task was to discuss what would best represent the character B, thinking about incidents, dreams, and descriptions and then go on to think how these could be represented in a concrete way. At the end of the lesson the reporter explained the group’s ideas to the class. I had prepared a worksheet for this discussion task and for me the key factor was the input of Karen in the art department. We discussed the terminology that art would use in such a worksheet. Throughout this project the constant conversations with the art department have been invaluable.

Starting to think about the artist boxes

The following week the group discussion continued with the students’ ideas for their boxes (which were thoughtfully supplied by Chapter in Bridge of Allan) starting to take shape. They also started sharing ideas about how they could acquire the objects to put into the boxes. Could fingernails be brought in? What about beer mats, would they be allowed? Did anyone have tiny bottles?

General interest was increasing—members of staff were reading the book as well as other pupils. As fast as S1 returned books, I handed them out to other pupils from S1 to S4.

Back in the Art department – starting to get creative!

Week six followed a holiday, but back in the art room excitement started mounting again. Douglas reminded them of Joseph Cornell’s work, revisiting three images in particular:

Douglas reinforced the use of the term surrealism and assemblage. He pointed out the contrasts between three dimensional objects and cut outs that added to the unusual feel of the box. He also talked about beauty. We wanted the boxes to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as representing B, so care had to be taken. And so the construction began...

Catherine Wylie

Catherine Wylie is an English teacher at Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire. She coordinated a collaborative project between the English and Art departments based on Authors Live: Darren Shan, as part of Scottish Book Trust's Teacher Ambassador Programme.