Symbol Poetry in Kindergarten

Symbol Poetry in Kindergarten 



Understanding that symbols carry meaning is an important first step to making the connection that the written word carries meaning.  Symbols surround our life and world and often overlap into spoken language, written language, and the advertisements that fill these United States.  This introductory lesson took the concept of “family” and asked the students to create one symbol that represented an aspect of family or family life.  They created a rough draft in oil pastel and then made a symbol out of clay that was then fired and glazed.  We then made a video that allowed the children to really learn the individual symbols of the other children in class. They finally were able to individually manipulate the pieces to create personal poems with the family symbols.


Goals and Objectives:

  • Introduce and define the concept of symbol to the kindergartners

EARL connection:

a.  Matches spoken and written word – K framework, EARL, 1.3

1.  Reads and follows simple directions and symbols     –   K framework, EARL,  3.2, 3.4

  •  Allow them time to create individual symbols that represent one concept of family

EARL connection:

a.  The student understands and applies arts knowledge and skills

EARL 1.1 understands arts concepts and vocabulary

b.    identifies and uses visual art, dance, theatre and music vocabulary and concepts

                  c.  1.2  develops arts skills and techniques

1. The student demonstrates thinking skills using artistic processes.
 2. applies a creative process in the arts: conceptualizes
the context or  purpose; gathers information from diverse sources; develops ideas and techniques; organizes arts elements, forms, and/or principles creative work; reflects for the purpose of elaboration and evaluation; refines work based on feedback; presents work to others
   a.   develops work using a creative process with instructor direction

  • Takes part in the making of a video that highlights the poem created and allows children to practice the symbols of the others in the groups.

  EARL connection:

a.     Listens for information – K framework, EARL 1.2

b.    Attends to a variety of illustrations – K framework, EARL 1.2

  •        Using the final ceramic symbols, let each child create a visually pleasing display of the total poem.

EARL connection

a.     Attends to stories and poems – K framework, EARL 1.1

b.    Makes verbal commentary during play and other activities with concrete objects – K framework, EARL 2.1


Materials for this lesson were Chinese writing samples, oil pastels, 9 x 12

           Construction paper, clay, glazes, digital still camera, floppy disks, iMovie, Apple

          iMac computer, television and tag board for letting individual children arrange their interpretation of the poem.


1.     Show the example of the Chinese symbol that represents peace.  Tell the kindergartners that the symbol means the word peace.

2.     Explain that symbols are pictures or shapes that show an idea.

3.     Share my drawing of children.  Tell the kindergartners that I made up this shape to show Miles and Emmy.  I chose them because they are an important part of my family.

4.     Explain that since it’s almost Thanksgiving we are going to make a symbol of our own for family.  It can be anything you’d like that’s important to you about your family.

5.     Give the children a piece of construction paper and oil pastels.  Leave up your example and then have them create a symbol for family.

6.     After the children are done, write the word or phrase they made the symbol for in their drawing.

7.     Next, the children may make their symbol out of clay.  They may use the earlier work (rough draft) and add to it or change it as they are working.  I had  the parent helper do this in one afternoon.  It took about 2 and a half hours to have the whole class make their symbols.

8.     As the children are working take pictures of the process and add this information into the computer.

9.     After the clay dries, about 5 days, fire in a kiln.  The next day the children may paint the symbols and then fire them that night.

10. Take pictures of the finished product and then add the word for the symbol to the movie.

11. Play the movie several times to allow the children to read the meanings behind the symbols.

12. Each child may then choose to form the symbols into a poem during the center portion of the day.


1.     After the symbols come out of the kiln, check to see if the kindergartner remembers what the symbol means and how it relates to their family.

2.     Talk to each child during the centers about the arrangement of the symbols and to see if they are remembering the ideas they represent from the practice movie.




1.     Continue to point out symbols that occur in our lives everyday.

2.     Create a symbol walk of found ideas from magazines, articles, etc.

3.     Put out the symbol poem during center activities every month or so.




I was a little worried as I started this lesson.  I wondered if the children would understand the concept of symbol and whether they’d be able to show create their own.  Since we have already done seven clay projects, I knew they’d feel comfortable working in that medium.  They took to the idea of a family symbol easily.  The rough draft of the symbol helped them organize the elements of the shape they would make in clay.  It was fun to see the changes they made.  I especially enjoyed the painting of the symbols.  It really added depth and individualism to the project.  This project is something that times time and really needs more than one person to work in a small group.  I relied on parent volunteers who had had experience with ceramics and really stayed out of the creative processes the children were going through in developing their pieces.  I also enjoyed the elements of the lessons because it incorporated elements from the communication, art and reading frameworks and EARL’s for Washington State.



Bergenson T. (1999). Kindergarten Reading Benchmarks.

Olympia, WA:  Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2001, from ERIC database on the Word Wide Web:


Bergenson T. (1999). Kindergarten Communications Benchmarks.

Olympia, WA:  Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2001, from ERIC database on the Word Wide Web:


Bergenson T. (1999). Kindergarten Art Benchmarks.

Olympia, WA:  Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2001, from ERIC database on the Word Wide Web:




























































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  poetry will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.