Creative Ideas to Use with Purple Mountain Majesties

Here are some creative activities to use with your students after reading Purple Mountain Majesties:  The Story of Katharine Lee Bates and “America the Beautiful.”

Lovable Words

Purple Mountain Majesties begins, “Katharine Lee Bates loved words.”  Say some of your favorite words and tell the class why you like them.  Next, have the students make a list of their favorite words.  Ask them to consider how each word sounds, what it means, and what memories or thoughts it brings to their minds. Let them share their lists with the class or in small groups and/or make a mural of the words on the board or a paper banner for the hall.

Bright, Clean, Unfilled Pages

Katharine wrote in her girlhood diary, “There is a charm in bright, clean, unfilled pages, which I, for one, cannot resist.” Treat your class to some interesting paper. Give simple writing prompts or let students choose their own topic.  Invite them to fill the page, saying the line from Katharine’s diary with them before they start. Bind the finished pages into a book to be enjoyed in the classroom or school media center.  Consider linking this activity to a lesson on the history of paper and other writing supplies and/or a papermaking project. Also, talk about the wise use of paper and the importance of paper recycling.

Floating Thoughts

In an essay about “America the Beautiful,” Katharine writes that the first verse floated into her mind as she gazed over Pikes Peak.  Explain that creative thoughts often happily float into our minds.  Take the students, notebooks in hand, to a quiet place on the school grounds or have them make themselves comfortable in the classroom.  Ask them to keep their minds open for floating thoughts and then record some of those thoughts.  Encourage students to write freely, without concern for correct sentences or spelling. Consider having them share their thoughts in groups, illustrate their thoughts, or turn them into simple poems.

Parade of Postcards

Some of the first postcards in the United States were mailed from the World’s Columbian Exposition.  In celebration, Stacey Schuett framed her paintings of Seven Falls and the rock formations in the Garden of the Gods in postcards.  Cut postcards from cardstock or purchase blank 4 X 6 index cards. Ask students to draw a picture of a place they have visited or would like to visit. On the other side of the postcard, have them write a message, pretending they are visiting that place.  Send the postcards to another class in school, with a short note explaining the project.

A Rainbow of Poems

Read students the words to “America the Beautiful.”  What colors are mentioned in the poem?  These are colors observed by Katharine on her journey:  purple for the Rocky Mountains, amber for the wheat fields of the Great Plains, alabaster for the white buildings of the Columbian Exposition, and gold as a reference to the gold mining town of Cripple Creek.  Offer students an assortment of colored paper.  Have them choose a color and then write a poem that contains references to that color.  Let them first compose their poem on scrap paper and then transfer them to the colored sheet.  Arrange the poems in a rainbow shape on a wall or bulletin board.

Book Dedications

When Barbara Younger was twelve years old, her mom and dad took her on a train ride from Baltimore to California.  She remembers her Uncle B waiting for them on the train’s platform.  In honor of that journey, she decided to dedicatePurple Mountain Majesties to her parents and her uncle.  Show students the book’s dedication and perhaps some other interesting book dedications.  Ask them to imagine a book they might write and then have them compose their own dedications.

A Party for the Animals

An animal lover, Katharine liked to read stories to her dog and she even hosted a party on her back steps for her parrot Polonius. Ask students to bring in a favorite toy animal.  First have them write a poem, story, or song for the animal. When they are finished, let them read their creation to their animal friend, and if time permits, share it with the class or in small groups.  Conclude the activity with a party for the animals. Consider tea and cookies, which Katharine often served her guests, or green punch and crackers in honor of Polonius the Parrot.

Questions for Lively Discussions

What is the most spectacular view you have ever seen?

Katharine named her bicycle “Lucifer.”  Do you have a name for your bike or any of your possessions?  Can you come up with some fun names for your favorite things?

In a poem, Katharine wrote, “Dare to dream/Spirit outsoars space.”  What do you think this means?

Katherine jotted in her line-a-day diary: “The glory and the music of Niagara Falls.”  How do you think Niagara Falls sounds?  (Have the class in unison imitate the sound of the falls.)  Next, let the students take turns imitating other natural sounds and see if others can guess what that sounds represents.

Would you have been brave enough to ride the Ferris wheel?  (Remember, this would be the first time you saw the Giant Wheel or any scary, high ride.)  Katharine was!

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