Distribute large sheets of paper and markers/pens to each individual or small groups.
If necessary, re-shape the paper into a square.
Instruct each person (or group) to design and create a colourful album cover featuring images, album cover title and song names.
Guide your group to create images and titles that reflect the story of their unique experience.
Allow ample time for reflection and production of artwork.
Invite one or more people to share their artwork and titles to the whole group.
How To Play Narrative
Every time I introduce this reflection exercise, I am amazed at what it produces from and for my group. So, if at first glance, you’re not too sure, I urge you to give it a go.
Before you start, you may wish to inspire your group with a display of your own collection of favourite music album covers, or inviting your group to share stories of their favourite covers.
In any case, distribute large sheets of paper and pens to each person in your group. Pens work okay, but coloured markers are much better. Then, instruct your group to shape the paper into a square (all album covers are square) and to use the next 15 to 20 minutes designing their own music album cover.
Ask your group to feature one or more images in the background and to (a) give their album a title and (b) list a series of song names on the back (or front.)
Naturally, as a reflection exercise, you want to guide each person (or small group) to choose album titles and songs which reflect something about a particular experience they have encountered.
For example, at the conclusion of a 3-day residential camp, this would be an ideal exercise to invite reflective thoughts because the program would have been jam-packed with many fun and challenging experiences.
A possible album cover debrief could feature ‘High Expectations’ as its title and include song titles such as ‘Never Done That Before,’ ‘Scary Fun’ and ‘Best Friends Forever.’
There’s really no way to get this wrong. Give ample time for reflection and I expect lots of wonderful album cover debrief titles and songs will be produced.
Practical Leadership Tips
It really doesn’t matter what the artwork looks like or what the cover or song titles are – the key to any reflection is the opportunity for people to recall an experience and make sense of it. To this end, be sure this exercise does not turn into a competition.
In the case of small group work, invite each person to come up with one song title that reflects something about their unique experience.
For the record, I happen to love the following album covers: Footloose (okay, I know that dates me!) and if I was to name one song title that reflects my life (so far) it would have to be Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley.
You could integrate Album Cover into a well-designed SEL program to help your group identify and understand a range of emotions, thoughts and values and how they influence their behaviours in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Artwork can provide such a rich canvas for individuals and groups to explore their emotional intelligence as much as to be accountable for their thoughts and feelings. To this end, you may consider framing this experience by connecting these two essential skills to foster a constructive conversation when it comes to sharing.
For example, if the members of your group can attach “I am” or “I will” or “I believe” statements to the artwork they produce, it will go a long way to drawing growth and development from this reflection exercise.
Clippings: Supply a bunch of newspapers and magazines, in addition to pens & markers, as a source of inspiration, images, and headlines that they can repurpose (and paste onto paper) for their own stories and reflections.
Newspaper Headlines: Instruct small groups or individuals to create the front page of a major newspaper, complete with headlines, images, and text. Encourage one feature ‘front-page’ story and several smaller stories.
Real Titles: Challenge your group to use the name of a real-life album cover title, or at a minimum, real-life song titles to capture the essence of their reflective thoughts, eg Coldplay’s album Parachutes may capture your experience of sky-diving.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, ask your participants to grab their own paper, pen and pencils. Brief the exercise and give them ample time to create their own album covers. if you have a large group, allocate every person to a smaller breakout room and invite each person to share their creation.
Once created, be sure to ask each person to display their album cover in front of their camera, and then, as the meeting host, take a screenshot – you’ll create a fascinating collage of album cover artwork.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like:
“THE FINE ART OF DESIGNING ALBUM COVERS HAS, FOR THE MOST PART, BEEN LOST BECAUSE MOST OF OUR MUSIC THESE DAYS IS ENJOYED ON A DIGITAL DEVICE WITH SMALL SCREENS. BUT, WITH YOUR MOST EXPERIENCE IN MIND, I’D LIKE YOU TO IMAGINE DESIGNING AN ALBUM COVER THAT CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THIS EXPERIENCE…”
“MUSIC IS SUCH A BIG PART OF MANY PEOPLE’S LIVES, YOU COULD ALMOST TELL THEIR STORY BY USING REAL-LIFE SONG TITLES. IN THIS NEXT EXERCISE, I’D LIKE YOU TO COME UP WITH AN ALBUM COVER TITLE AND A SERIES OF SONG TITLES THAT TELL SOME OF THE STORY OF YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH [… ENTER CHALLENGING, MOST MEMORABLE, ETC EXPERIENCE…]”
The inspiration for Album Cover Debrief is unknown, or at least, the name of the person who shared this idea with me has been long forgotten.