Jul 24, 2016 by


Jeffrey Pflaum –

When I started teaching in the late 60s we set out to change public education with innovation and a whole lot of idealism, which describes the mindset of educators from this era. Lesson plans, for most subjects, always included, “THE MOTIVATION.”

And, as a teacher, I believed the motivation segment rocked the lessons because it not only inspired the kids to learn, but also myself. If I couldn’t get passionate about what I’m teaching, how would the class respond to that? Taking a psychology course in “Motivation” didn’t hurt either: it showed me the variety of, and surprising, as well as scary, ways motivation pushed people to act.

One of my surprise motivations was THE BIG CLOUD PICTURE SHOW where I presented color slides of clouds to the class. The purpose was ambitious: to trigger thinking, creative thinking, feelings, experiences, creativity, and writing in the form of free-verse poetry and haiku.

I thought the fifth grade inner-city children might be a little skeptical of a cloud show, but once they saw the images, mainly “clouds that look like things,” they turned out to be cloud enthusiasts like me. Students came up to the projection screen to point out, or really, trace with their fingers, what they saw or imagined in the clouds.

It was amazing to see how kids “analyzed” the Rorschach-like clouds and described the various animals, people, objects, places, scenes, and also, some “things” that were questionable to all of us. The images along with verbal descriptions of what they viewed became intense. The class dialogues kept building until the last transparency was shown.

Of course, the students had to “pay a price for admission” to the cloud show: I asked them, at the conclusion of the presentation, to write cloud poetry. Before they wrote, the class title-stormed titles for potential poems. The chalkboard filled with many titles the kids made up after looking at the cloud slides. From there they wrote…

Note: Prior to the cloud show, students were well versed in poetry reading and writing. The lesson using cloud transparencies became another trigger or motivation for poetry writing. Clouds, in this approach, were looked at as an art form, and not as much as a science lesson.

Please check out to find:


  • Betty Cottes’ cloud poem, “Deep Cloud,” combined with my cloud photo (5/25/16) at:

  • Jimmy Berrios’ cloud poem, “Sound,” combined with my cloud photo (5/6/16) at:  

  • Michael Ruiz’s cloud poem, “Sky Panther,” combined with my cloud photo (7/7/16) at:

For those interested in clouds, from an artistic and scientific point of view, please go to the following websites for other amazing shows:

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