In response to their reading of All Quiet on the Western Front, my students created poetry, diary entries which contrasted with letters home, did drawings, a hooked rug (see below). One student destroyed a copy of All Quiet, filling a bag with its ripped out pages, gluing the pages to the outside as well, with a quote from Vonnegut, “Tiger got to hunt. Bird got to fly. Man got to sit and wonder why why why. Tiger got to sleep. Bird got to land. Man got to say he understand.” In the painting above, the student showed each of the main characters from left to right: Kemmerich with leg wound, Haie with the wound in his back, Kropp and his leg wound, Paul, Kat holding two geese with a splinter in his head, Mueller/Tjaden in the airman’s boots, and Detering and the cherry blossoms. Their huge shadows are of small scared children.
One student wrote a 98 page short story/ novel, “The Third Estate,” in response to this book. The class was pretty impressed with the energy that went into that project. There was a rap, actually quite good, which also included a detailed rendition of the causes of World War I (“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori/ This is a rap of World War I and its story”), a song called “A Pair of Boots,” a sensitive piece composed for the piano, even a playlist of thirteen songs was created, with explanations for each song selected and how each one relates to the book (including song artists Death Cab for Cutie, Regina Spektor, Marina and the Diamonds, and Stealing Sheep).
I need to always remember, honor, and give space for the many creative talents of my students.