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Classroom Activities Involving Dreams

  1. Grades 1 Through College Level

    Drawing Dream Images

    Procedure: Give out paper, crayons, chalk, paints and modeling clay. Instruct students to draw a single image or scene from a recent dream or one they remember with particular vividness. (Note: recent dreams allow for greater identification of life circumstances that are often reflected in the dream. Earlier dreams from life histories are more difficult to decipher simply because the student tends not to be able to confirm speculation about their meaning. But for the purposes of dream drawing and exploring the feelings the imagery causes, any vivid dream image is appropriate.)

    Have students take approximately 20-30 minutes to create a dream drawing. If they complete sooner then take less time. Encourage the use of color, lines indicating motion, jagged lines indicating fear or frenzy, anything they can do to reflect not only what they saw, but how they felt, and what if anything went through their minds. To the extent possible, allow students to select the writing implements, colors and clay they want to use. Not all students will want or need the clay, but many find that a particular monster, blob or snake can best be depicted in clay. Some will do a full drawing, with clay figures as props to amplify the qualities involved. Encourage students to raise a hand or ask others for the colors they need. Let them have more paper as needed too, since some will find they require more space, or spontaneously recall a related scene or image that feels important. Stress that this is not an artistic endeavor, but a chance to get a dream image on paper so that it can be viewed from a different perspective. Emotional expression, not artistic quality is the priority.

    Group Viewing: When students are done, have everyone walk around the room silently and view all the pictures. Instruct them to notice their reactions to the pictures, particularly how they feel as they view them and what the images make them think about. This should only take a couple of minutes. Then have students take a seat with their pictures.

    Dreamerís Display Their Pictures: If possible, have the students arrange their chairs so that they can all see each other, as in a circle. If this is not possible, then ask each student to stand (and come to the front of the room if necessary), to hold up their picture, and explain what it is, and a little about the dream it came from. After they have made their explanation, invite students to comment about how this picture makes them feel, either when they viewed it a moment ago, or now. Notice if the students "caught" the emotion in the picture, even if they did not understand exactly what the scene was. Inquire if others have had this type of image in their dreams. Ask the dreamer if this was the only time they have dreamed of this image, or if this is a recurring theme. If so, how often do they have this dream? And for how long has it been recurring?

    Speculation on Relevance:: For this exercise, it is usually best to be cautious in speculating on the relevance of the dreamís image. Only encourage this, if the class has caught the notion of being sensitive and serious about it, rather than joking and casting aspersions. However high school and college students usually are intuitively good at wondering about the situations and feelings that catalyze dream imagery. The purpose of this exercise is to notice how making a representation of a dream image allows us to have a different experience of it. When we view the "creation" in this way, it loses its power over us, and we are able to see connections to real life that are invisible when in the throes of a dream memory. When dreams are "stuck" inside our heads, it is difficult to understand them. When we make external images of them, through art or writing or even retelling them, they become patterns we can understand more objectively. Also viewing these creations in a group allows us the benefit of otherís impressions Ė often these are uncannily astute and point out things the dreamer has failed to notice.

    Processing: You may want to congratulate dreamers on how well their drawing captured a particular quality in the dream; in a sense allowing everyone else to "taste" that moment as if they were dreaming it too. This can be seen in the choice of color, the scale of images, and the starkness or shading involved. Many people have noticed that drawing which is unrefined by artistic technique is particularly rich in psychological overtones. This type of discussion also allows people to experience their dreams as special, creative, extraordinary reflections of their lives and feelings, rather than peculiarities and mysteries. This exercise is a good way to lead into the study of dreams and dream interpretation because it takes the focus away from interpreting and places it on expressing and appreciating dream imagery.

  2. Late Grammar School Through Adult

    Exploring the Myths about Dreams

    Procedure: Read aloud the following list of ideas about dreams and invite students to vote on whether they are true of false. You might say something like: "hereís a belief about dreams, and read it, then ask, "okay who believes this is true?"

    1. If you dream of falling and hit the ground in a dream, you will die. Thatís why so many of us wake up on the way down!"

      Answer: false. Many people do dream of hitting the ground, and even dying in their dreams from various causes and they have lived to tell the tale.

    2. If you dream of being hurtful, hitting someone or pushing them, it means you really hate that person and wish something would happen to them.

      Answer: False. Many dreams of violence have to do with having said the wrong thing during the day, or with getting carried away. Dreams of another personís misfortune do not necessarily mean that you wish harm to anyone. If you feel that way, you know it, and if you donít feel that way, trust your judgement.

    3. Everyone dreams every night whether they know it or not.

      Answer: True. Every ninety minutes throughout the night we enter REM Sleep and dream from 5-20 minutes. Many people seldom or never remember their dreams and are convinced for that reason that they do not dream at all. But unless they are on strong medication or have sustained severe brain damage, they do dream sometime during the night.

    4. Scary dreams are dangerous because they may come true.

      Answer: False. Most nightmares are not warnings of events about to happen. Nightmares have more to do with things that have recently upset the dreamer and of anxieties in general. They are often violent and scary but should not be taken literally.

    5. Women and girls are better at remembering their dreams than are boys and men.

      Answer: True. Research indicates overwhelmingly that women are better at remembering dreams than men. There are many theories about why this may be the case. It is probably due to a combination of factors, from cultural permission to be interested in the imagination to an increased number of connections between the right and left hemisphere of the brain.

    6. If you have nightmares often, it means there is something really wrong with you, and you may be crazy.

      Answer: False. Nightmares happen for a number of reasons. Sensitive intelligent people may be very prone to nightmares, people interested in art and visual design tend to have more nightmares than people interested in science and mathmatics. The interests do not cause the dreams of course, but scientists think that certain personality types may be more easily overstimulated and thus trigger bad dreams at night.

    7. If you dream about your ex or your former crush after breaking up, it means that they are your one true love, and youíd better try to get back together with them.

      Answer: False. Usually we dream of a former love interest when we are actually trying to understand a current relationship or understand the qualities that we like best in a friend or partner. Flashbacks of old relationships are usually attempts to sort out what went wrong and what we can do better in the future. The last person you were close to will tend to be the one you dream about, regardless of how much you may like someone else. It isnít a sign you should go back, but just a signal you care enough about relationships to try and figure out healthy ways to connect.


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