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Instructions for the Sun-Shadow Mandala This strategy is a perfect lead in to the narrative writing unit and uses multiple intelligences

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Instructions for the Sun-Shadow Mandala
This strategy is a perfect lead in to the narrative writing unit and uses multiple intelligences.
Ask students to move into a quiet, receptive frame of mind, and write down their answers to the following questions. There is no discussion at this point, but students will have ample opportunities to talk later.
Selecting the Sun Images

  1. What animal are you like most?

  2. What plant are you most like?

  3. What color are you most like?

  4. What shape are you most like?

  5. What number are you most like?

  6. What mineral or gem are you most like?

  7. What natural element are you most like: air, earth, fire, or water? (Students may n\select some aspect of the element or the entire category: breeze, hurricane, or tornado for air, for example; or mountain, desert, or beach for earth.)

These 7 symbols become the sun images of the mandala. The concept of the sun image arises naturally from the method of arriving at these images in a thoughtful, conscious manner, in “the light of the day” as we say.

Writing the Sun Sentences

  1. Students will write a sentence for each of their specific symbols.

Students may use the following core sentence as they think through their primary reason for selecting each of their sun images.

Suggested Core Sentence:

I am like the (sun image) because, like the (item), I _____________________.

Student Examples:

I am most like the poison oak because, like poison oak, I am harmless until I’m stepped on.

I am most like a giraffe because, like a giraffe, my vision extends beyond my reach.
Selecting Sun Image Qualities

  1. Students are to complete the first column on the Sun Images chart

Sun - Symbol

Most Like

Adjective Describing Column 1

Opposite of Word in Column 2

Most Like Column 2






Gem & Mineral





Sun – Symbol


Most Like

Adjective Describing Column 1

Opposite of Word in Column 2

Most Like Column 2












Navy Blue














Gem & Mineral













  1. To fill out the 2nd column, students need to express the single characteristic or quality that represents the underlying reason for each choice and place that “quality” word in the 2nd column in the chart. This activity will require thinking. Using a dictionary, a thesaurus, or each other will be beneficial in finding the most appropriate. A lot of discussion needs to occur at this point, so students can help each other select words with the right nuances and connotations. Students may find that another student has selected the same animal; however, their reasons for that selection are very different.. One student may be like a lion because of its strength, another because of its voraciousness.

Selecting the Shadow Images
After the completion of the 2nd column, students are ready to move to the idea of opposites. At this point students are asked to move outward, or sun images, to the inward aspects of their lives and generate a shadow image for each of the 7 categories that will make up the mandala.

  1. Students are to look at the quality they wrote to their animal image. Using a thesaurus as a guide, students should fill in line 1 in the 3rd column with an antonym of the word used in the 2nd column. Make sure that these two words are the same part of speech. For example, if their sun quality is intense, for the panther, their shadow quality might be lethargic rather than lethargic.

  2. Students write the name of an object that is most like (has the quality of) the adjective written in the 3rd column. For example, the word lethargic might have been written in the 3rd column. Now the student thinks of the most lethargic animal they know. This could be a cow. The word cow would be written in the 4th column.

Writing Shadow Sentences
Students will write shadow sentences using a core sentence, such as “Inwardly, I am like a _______________________________________________ because


Drawing the Sun-Shadow Mandala
Within the framework of a circle, using color and shape, but no words, students will draw or symbolize all of their sun images and all of their shadow images.. These images may be arranged any way the student wants Students may want to consider how they place things in relation to each other or consider only the way the colors and shapes look together. The artistry of the mandala is not important. Students are encouraged to use symbols, if they can not draw well. For example, a simple drawing of the footprint if a bear can stand for a bear. Students will discuss how to symbolize something they can not draw. During this activity students will need to consider relationships among the symbols (depicted by size, color, placement, interaction), deepening insights into the character.

Writing the Sun-Shadow Sentences
The sun-shadow sentences will be written around the edges of the mandala, which will provide a frame for the drawing. The following directions are for the writing of the sun-shadow sentences:

  1. Write a single sentence using all of your sun signs. See how you can weave all of those images together in one sentence.

  2. Weave your 7 sun-shadow signs into 1 sentence.

  3. Write both of these sentences around the outside of your mandala.

Examples of Personal Mandala Sun-Shadow Sentences:

1) The thirteen daisies on the square table were set on fire by the canary that lived among the rocks.

The seven red sapphires were stolen from the pyramid by an eagle that lived in the mighty oak, and were cast into the ice.

2) The circle of sunlight pierced the redwood branches to reveal a lone dolphin swimming just beneath the surface of the diamond blue ocean.

The lines of moonlight cast shadows upon the unkept sheep pasture which, once graced with a myriad of orange roses, now lay empty, dotted with rock and puddles from yesterday’s rain.

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