Activity Group 2: Jamming and Adaptations

The process of making meaning is not an individual process but a social one. Words, their meanings and associations, are culturally and socially embedded, and we collectively share in their exchange, creation, and subversion. We learn language collaboratively, by listening to others and experimenting through trial and error. Why should the way we learn to read be limited to the solitary and quiet version?

The process of Jamming expands our understanding of reading to include multiple modes of encountering and engaging a text. Hearing, seeing, visualizing, touching, collaborating, etc., all become a part of the process of reading. Jamming invites people to unpack—even explode—a complex text. Best used with a challenging and unfamiliar text, reading aloud and jamming with a group of people helps us hear and see how we make meaning with the text—how we make sense of it, and understand it in the context of our lives. As detailed in the Walker Art Center's "Studio K.O.S. Jamming Facilitation Guide," jamming is an important part of Studio K.O.S.'s art-making process, which is at the same time a literacy-building activity.

Importantly, jamming asks everyone to listen and respond to the words through free associative drawing and/or writing. While jamming, as the words travel in the room, consider what images they conjure, and what immediately comes to your mind.

Equally important, jamming asks everyone to free associate collectively. As you draw a particular image in response to a word or phrase, that image inspires something for another learner, and helps others see from a new angle. Other learners can then begin to use your image, adding something new as they adapt it in their own work. As one person reads the text aloud, everyone responds and imagines together, building a repertoire of images, shapes, and color that adds to our understanding of the text. After a jamming session, the room should be littered with images, sketches, and pictures that we have made together while reading.

This activity section shares the process that Studio K.O.S. introduced to educators and teens during their workshops at the Walker Art Center. It also provides two additional adaptations that enable you to engage learners with complex texts, whether in a classroom, library, or reading group.

Jamming Facilitation Guide

This exercise shares the Studio K.O.S. Jamming Facilitation Guide, written by Youth Programs Coordinator Simona Zappas for the Walker Art Center. Further details of workshops can be found here.

Time Needed: 2 hours.

If you or your participants are new to using Google Slides, there are many short, helpful tutorials on YouTube.

— Introduction:
Contextualize the activities by introducing the work of Studio K.O.S. This overview article of the collective will allow you to introduce their art, history, and formation to participants. Older participants might also like to watch this interview between Studio K.O.S. and Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Members of Studio K.O.S. like to start the lesson with a call-and-response asking participants if they are ready to make history. Even if the class is already acquainted with each other, it can also be helpful for participants to do a “go around” or “get to know you” question to practice opening up about their personal experiences and to find common ground.

Examples of these questions include:
— Share a moment from this past week that has been a real highlight for you and why
— Describe a moment or activity that is a time when you feel incredibly [choose one] calm / empowered / excited / energized
— Tell us about an object in your life that is very meaningful to you

— Reading in the Round:
If jamming with a new text, it is helpful to provide participants with an informal plot synopsis. Studio K.O.S. recommends using music, video, and other AV supports to engage multiple forms of retention.

Select a passage, and have participants take turns reading aloud from the text—each participant can read one page, etc. As the educator, you are encouraged to read aloud as well. Call on participants to read, or have them “popcorn” to their peers.

Reading aloud is key to the jamming process. Some participants may feel anxious or uncomfortable doing so. Try to ease their stress by sharing that this step is designed to create a space where everyone is hearing, listening, and participating equally.

When you’ve finished your reading selection, lead a conversation prompting participants to make connections between different moments in the text, and/or to their own experiences. The conversation topics might include personal beliefs, sources of hope, personal narratives or challenges, and current events.

Sample questions to encourage conversation:
— How would you imagine the text in visual form (in terms of lines, shapes, expressive gestures, patterns, etc.)?
— What do you notice about the symbolic meanings of color in the text?
— How does the text's language evoke feeling? What feelings are evoked?
— What kind of dialog occurs in this text? What kinds of language do these characters use?
Remember, when participants share their thoughts, prompt them to respond to those extra questions: Why did you think this? What about the text led you to think this? They can make all the difference.

— Art Making:
During or after the reading and discussion, each participant creates an original artwork in the style of Studio K.O.S.

To do so, each participant begins by using a scan of the text as the base for their artwork. If working virtually, use a scanned image of the text on Google Slides or a similar platform.

Encourage participants to add color and shapes that cover, highlight, or obscure parts of the text, or carve out or feature select passages. Students should consider how their formal choices convey their own interpretations of the text.

When working with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Studio K.O.S. usually uses the letters "IM" as a stencil-like pattern, and adds colors, lines, patterns and materials to manipulate the letters. This process evokes questions of meaning and identity. Depending on the text, participants may create their own lettering, symbols, or appliqués to do this.

If working in person, participants might cut, tear, paint, or draw on the actual text. If working virtually, Google Slides offers a wide range of options to alter their image, such as drawing tools, line patterns, gradients, and shadows. An advantage of Google Slides is that participants can make multiple pieces in rapid succession. Not being precious about the work, or spending too much time on a single piece, is another important facet of jamming.

— Conclusion:
Wrap everything up by having participants share out their artworks and explain the reasoning behind their formal decisions. Encourage participants to comment on each other’s work and to ask more questions. To close, ask the participants a check-out question to see what they thought of the workshop, or how they are feeling after it.

Suggested Texts for Jamming

Some suggested authors used by Tim Rollins and K.O.S.:
Malcolm X: Civil and human rights leader who spoke for racial equity and liberation by any means necessary.
William Shakespeare: 15th century English playwright and poet whose canonical works include Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet.
Harriet Jacobs: 19th century enslaved woman who freed herself and wrote her autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
James Baldwin: Writer whose deeply poetic works explored masculinity, class, sexuality, and race across fiction and non-fiction texts. Two of his well-known novels are Go Tell it On the Mountain and Giovanni's Room. Among his many non-fiction works are the famous texts Notes of a Native Sun and Fire Next Time.
Dr. Martin Luther King: Civil rights leader responsible for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and the Selma voting rights movement in addition to well-known speeches such as "I have a Dream" and texts like "Letter from Birmingham Jail".
Nathaniel Hawthorne: 19th century New England writer best known for his investigation of morality and gender in The Scarlet Letter.
W.E.B. Du Bois: 20th century scholar who is one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His essay collection The Souls of Black Folk is foundational to discourses on race.
Franz Kafka: 20th century Czech writer who used a combination of fantasy and realism to explore alienation, bureaucracy, and existential anxiety in texts like "Metamorphosis," Amerika and The Trial.
Mark Twain: 19th century influential humorist whose works The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer helped shaped the American literary canon.
Stephan Crane: 20th century impressionist poet and author of The Red Badge of Courage.
Ralph Ellison: 20th century novelist and essayist known for Invisible Man, Shadow and Act, and Going to the Territory.
Giordano Bruno: 15 century Copernican astronomer and poet .

These authors are typically for a high school or college reading level, but their messages are relevant to all. For Minnesotan English Language Arts classrooms at a 6th Grade level, the Walker also recommends "Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson.

– Colorful paper/newspapers/magazines
– Scissors
– Glue and glue sticks
– Paint & paint brushes
– Markers/colored pencils/crayons/pastels
– Copies of the text for each participant to mark up

Zoom room for participants
Google Slides presentation open for any participant to edit. Scan the pages of the text you are using and paste the image onto a slide. Copy the slide so that each participant can create a work on a slide with the scanned text.

Jamming Adaptation

Step 1: Choose a complex text to work with, either from the Studio K.O.S. reading list or from this additional short reading list.

Step 2: Read aloud, choosing either one single reader or reading in "popcorn" style.

Make sure all participants have paper and something to draw or write with. You may want to model this activity by reading a short portion of the text and asking participants to freely draw or write. After reading aloud, you can ask participants to hold up their drawings or writings to show each other. You could also encourage participants to draw on the same large poster board or butcher paper so they are physically making meaning in the same space.

Virtual Adaptation: If you are using Zoom or Google Hangouts, you can use a shared Google Slides document to create works. This platform allows participants to view each others' works while they are making them. If everyone is using paper, you can ask participants to hold their work up to the camera, or take a photo of their work and email it after a reading break. This process of collective looking and borrowing from each other is important to jamming.

After reading aloud, you can ask participants to engage in further textual or visual analysis by returning to the text and choosing a challenging and important quote or moment that really stuck out to them. Working individually or in groups, participants can use the jamming process to create as many images as possible in response to the quote in the allotted time.

Step 3: After the text has been read aloud, participants should display all the works that they created. This collective sharing allows participants to observe and reflect on what they have made, and an opportunity to select one drawing to use in their final art-making project. Please move on to the Gallery Walk exercise to support student sharing.

Gallery Walks

Gallery Walk A: In-Person Activity

1. Gallery Walk Preparation:
Set up stations around the room (up to five or six). You could organize stations by theme, student group, or randomly. Ask students to place their work in these stations. Each station can include several student artworks, and you can set up a piece of posterboard or use the wall.

2. Gallery Walk Protocols:
Hand out sticky notes in two different colors to students, making sure that each student has a small number of each one. Invite students to respond in writing to the artworks around the room using the sticky notes. On one color students should write "I notice..." statements and on the other "I wonder..." statements. Ask students to add at least one pair of sticky notes to each station. You can ask them to add more notes, depending on your students' needs. As students walk around, they will begin to see and respond to each others' comments.

Once students have finished adding their first set of comments, you can ask them to walk around again and respond to each others' comments by adding new thoughts, responding to questions posed, or posing new questions. You could provide a third sticky note color for this activity.

3. Post Gallery Walk Reflection:
Ask students to reflect on the Gallery Walk by responding in writing to the following prompt:

Discuss the artwork(s) that stuck out the most and why. What kinds of patterns did you notice across all the stations? Was there a particular symbol or color that several students used? How did observing the artworks help you "see" the text you read together differently, or more clearly? What questions do you have about the text at this time?

To conclude the activity, students can share their written responses as a group. You can ask students to get started by underlining a few sentences they wish to read aloud—a strategy called “bracketing”. You could also nominate someone to keep track of key ideas or words by writing them down as participants share.

Gallery Walk B: Virtual Activity

1. If the participants are using Google Slides, give everyone a chance to scroll through the group’s work. They can use the “Notes” function at the bottom of each page to add their two comments (observations and questions).

2. Once everyone has had a chance to make observations, provide the reflection prompt for everyone to respond to in writing.

3. To conclude the activity, students can share their written responses as a group. You can ask students to get started by underlining a few sentences they wish to read aloud—a strategy called “bracketing”. You could also nominate someone to keep track of key ideas or words by writing them down as participants share.

Making art from reading

1. Choose a text to focus on. If you are using an entire novel or large text, spend some time deciding which section feels most important for the group. Photocopy the exact pages of the text you are using for this activity. Then, ask participants to glue them to poster board in a grid-like fashion.

2. Once the pages are affixed to the poster board, decide how the group will use the selected image(s) from the jamming process to draw directly on the text’s pages. Which group members will play which roles (drawer, copier, affixer, helper, etc.)?

3. When there is a plan in place, participants can draw directly on the pages or draw on a separate piece of paper, cut out the shape/image/color and affix it to the pages.

4. Once this part of the process is done, time for the final Gallery Walk where the participants showcase everything that their collective reading generated in relation to the chosen text. Invite others to the Gallery Walk and make it as public or private as you see fit.

Virtual Adaptation: If using Google Slides, scan the pages of the text you are using and paste the image onto a slide. Copy the slide so that each participant can create a work on a scanned image of the text. Participants can discuss and agree their process of making work. Using the drawing tools in Google Slides, participants can add lines, shapes, color, etc.

Reflection Writing

Because this project is about the process of collective meaning-making and supporting participants to engage with an otherwise difficult text, asking them to reflect and respond to the entire process is vital. Reflection writing supports learners to build their metacognitive skills as it also helps them to see and understand what they learned from a particular process more clearly and deeply.

Ask students to reflect on the following questions in writing:
— How did reading aloud differ from reading silently?
— How did responding visually in a free-associative way help them read the text?
— What did the jamming process help them to see about the text and about themselves as readers?
— Did they find it easier to focus on the difficult text when they were simultaneously busy drawing?


Reading Resources: Studio K.O.S. was produced by Wendy Tronrud (A. R. T. Education Advisor) in collaboration with Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) and the Walker Art Center in 2020–21.

In memory of Tim Rollins.

A.R.T. would like to thank the Walker Art Center; in particular Nisa Mackie (Head of Public Engagement, Learning, and Impact), Simona Zappas (Youth Programs Coordinator), and Sara Shives (Production Manager).

We are grateful for the financial support of our generous funders. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Additional support was granted by:
National Endowment for the Arts
H.W. Wilson Foundation
Wilhelm Family Foundation
Maureen Paley
A.R.T. Board of Directors
A.R.T. Advisory Board

Most specially, we thank Studio K.O.S.: Angel Abreu, Jorge Abreu, Robert Branch, and Ricardo Savinon.

Web programming by Document Services.
Copyright © Art Resources Transfer, Inc 2021.

All images are protected under copyright by the original rights holders.

A.R.T. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

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