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Contemplation Writing: An Alternative to Journal Writing and Mindfulness Programs, Part 5, Themes from Student Contemplations

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The themes, plots, experiences, and stories of my students cover a wide range of everyday, real events, and also, surreal happenings that impact adolescent life.  The beauty of “Contemplation” or “Music” Writing is that it gives kids the freedom of expression that leads to self-discovery, self-motivation, and ultimately, self-education.  Their inner worlds are activated by the music and trigger the desire to write about whatever they experienced inside themselves.  Even on a really “bad” day for any given child, music can bring him or her into a “better head” or mindset and inspire contemplation despite the lousy mood.  The Music Writing motto was always “Get into it, and get it out.When you read the “themes” I culled from their writings, you will see that students followed through on it.  If you have read my previous post (#4) on the “categories” of student contemplations, you should notice that many of these themes fit into them.




(1)  Money can’t buy happiness

(2)  Nobody wants me or becoming a Snickers bar

(3)  Physical problems

(4)  Irrational fears (of a doll)

(5)  Running away from the unknown

(6)  Friends, loneliness, rejection, pressure, and school

(7)  Movies, horror, death, and prayer

(8)  Loving relationships (boy and girl)

(9)  Dream the impossible dream

(10) Reflections and present moment anger

(11) Drifting away into a peaceful world

(12) Parent-child split

(13) Losing a friend

(14) Dream of speeding out of control

(15) Dream of being lost on an airplane

(16) Dream of a tornado

(17) Unfulfilled dream of the good life

(18) Rejection: “I’m nobody!  Who are you?”

(19) Neglected child

(20) Symbolic trip through a mountain

(21) Life is short

(22) Death dream

(23) Death of a friend

(24) Fear, sports, and embarrassment

(25) Fantasy: “The Double Reflection”

(26) Divorce: A child’s reaction

(27) Fantasy about being smart

(28) Fear

(29) Nervous love

(30) Fantasy: Drain pipes and Rice Krispies

(31) Dream: mother and daughter relationship

(32) Dream: Dying uncle

(33) Power trip: Prince of the Projects

(34) Strange people in a strange world

(35) The “Invisible Girl” and Revenge

(36) Songs and remembrance

(37) Dream: Frozen Horror and Anger

(38) Anger

(39) Self-destruction

(40) Dream: Father and Son

(41) Children and parents: “Letting go”

(42) Fear and Dying

(43) Story: Little Girl Lost with Her Doll

(44) Flutes, Whales, and Peace

(45) Sweet peace in music: Getting into it

(46) Peace and floating

(47) Feelings and pain

(48) Schoolmates, Vampires, and Ghosts

(49) Fear and Living in the World

(50) Love

(51) Fantasy: Bubble trip into freedom

(52) Dream: Stuck in a cyclone

(53) Fantasy: Being yourself and self-deception

(54) Bad vibes between classmates

(55) Prejudice

(56) “Baby Love”: Don’t speak too fast

(57) Self-deception between friends

(58) Fantasy: Historical journey around the class

(59) Sportsmanship: Dirty hockey game

(60) Dream: Suicide off the Bridge and the Laughing Head

(61) Feeling good

(62) High anxiety about school

(63) More Bad Vibes

(64) Memories: Death of a Friend

(65) Fantasy: Wolf of the Steps at P.S. 16

(66) Vanity, Illusion, and Reflection

(67) Head full of pain

(68) Fantasy: Bright Lights, No Exit

(69) A 17-year old with a baby

(70) Viciousness and revenge

(71) End of the family: Youngest one in the house

(72) Fighting and blame

(73) Eternal Damnation: Guilt

(74) Fantasy: Heavenly Tragedy

(75) Fantasy: Tornado in the Classroom

(76) Divorce and Consequences for Children

(77) Future Shock: BMW or Tin Cup?

(78) War and Death

(79) Fantasy: Fallen Angels

(80) Fantasy: School Trap

(81) Dream: Frozen, Can’t Talk

(82) Dysfunctional family: Return to normalcy

(83) Distraction and getting into things

(84) Depression and its consequences

(85) New kid on the block and embarrassment

(86) Reflections: I hate, therefore, I am

(87) Slow and dumb: Success in school

(88) All alone

(89) Anger and Death (a friend’s)

(90) Fantasy: Heaven, hell, and blindness

(91) Nervous in school

(92) Fighting

(93) Trust and friendship

(94) Embarrassing Moments in Sports

(95) Death of a brother

(96) Anger and hate

(97) Anger, hate, and fighting

(98) Bad blood

(99) Friendship and feelings

(100) I get no respect

(101) Dream: Bad black cat

(102) Anger: Ready to blow

(103) Purpose of contemplation

(104) Fantasy: Sweet peace on the beach

(105) Dream: Milk, honey, and money

(106) Fantasy: Becoming-the-sun

(107) Friendship: Good and bad

(108) Unfairness in school

(109) School fantasy

(110) Dream: The Chase

(111) Stream-of-thought: Modern Mind-Pictures

(112) Music, contemplation, and getting into things

(113) Conflict resolution: Father-daughter

(114) Dream: Marriage of the Dead

(115) Friends

(116) Fantasy: Bouncing teacher loses grip

(117) Fathers, daughter, and divorce

(118) Dream: School and anger

(119) Boredom versus Spontaneity

(120) Death: At home and on TV

(121) One’s own mortality

(122) Dream: Indifference and pursuit

(123) On death, heaven, and hell

(124) Blaming ourselves

(125) Dream: God, angels, and flying

(126) Alone: Strange and Weird

(127) Feelings from unknown origins

(128) Negative parent-child relationships

(129) Beautiful mind-pictures

(130) Modern Tale: Beauty and the Beast

(131) “The heart is a lonely hunter”

(132) Mother Nature

(133) Dream: Of humor, flying, and birds

(134) Dream: Falling and spinning

(135) Aspirations for the good life

(136) Death in the family

(137) Anger and Teachers

(138) Homelessness

(139) Dream: Loneliness, love, and redemption

(140) Hate and Love: “The Double”

(141) Death and nothingness

(142) Dreams and lives

(143) Mothers: Love, hate, and forgiveness

(144) Dream: Divorced from nobody

(145) Realization: Self-insight, self-awareness, and epiphany

(146) Fear, violence, and posses

(147) Sibling rivalry

(148) Reminiscing: The good times

(149) Good people, kindness, and being real

(150) Self-esteem

(151) Boredom

(152) War and Man

(153) Cool, calm, and collected

(154) Nothing to say

(155) Withdrawing from the world

(156) Action, accomplishment, and positive self-esteem

(157) Violent acts: The witness

(158) Dealing with pain: Boys versus Girls

(159) Fantasy: Experiencing a New Life (Becoming a seagull)

(160) Leaders and Followers

(161) Teasing, tears, sadness, and the past

(162) Fast-paced life and change

(163) Look back in innocence

(164) Cruel World: Rejection, friends, and bitterness

(165) Questioning the World

(166) Sensitivity between friends

(167) Drugs

(168) Trying

(169) Fantasy: Peace on an island

(170) Confidence in sports

(171) School pressure

(172) Fighting to get the golden ring

(173) Soothing flutes into peace

(174) Death of a brother

(175) Being left out

(176) Experimenting and learning

(177) Mother-Son Relationship

(178) Friends and indifference

(179) The Great Sports Hero

(180) Scary life in today’s world

(181) Fantasy: Tricked, trapped, and saved

(182) The Joker (who doesn’t really mean it)

(183) Fantasy: Being-a-marble

(184) Questioning God’s motives

(185) Imaginary voices

(186) Why can’t I write poetry?

(187) Senseless violence

(188) Imagination running wild

(189) Reflections of the world

(190) “I’m not perfect!”

(191) Bleak future for friends

(192) Imaginary thoughts on mom’s death

(193) Criticism

(194) Facing the fear of death

(195) Put downs

(196) Child-parent conflicts over rules


The student-created contemplation themes, issues, ideas, and experiences described in their writing should make it clear to all readers of the “Contemplation Writing” posts how the combination of music, relaxation, recall/reflection/visualization/contemplation, writing, and discussion were effective and affective in easing the kids’ travels through their inner worlds, allowing them to confront the demons, negative emotions, conflicts, problems, and yes, even the good things, where there were no real outlets in their lives.  The student contemplation writing themes cover a wide spectrum of experiences, even though they are only a partial sampling of thousands of contemplations I have accumulated through this simple, practical project, which uses music as a trigger into infinite new and old internal and external worlds.


In the early stages of The Contemplation Writing Project, I compiled The Book of Experiences, where all the students’ writings were made into “chapters.”  For each child or chapter, you had a chance to see their progress from the beginning to the end of the school year through a total of one hundred plus contemplations.  It should be noted that I had no length requirement at that time, so the kids wrote as much as they wanted.  This changed later on when I asked for at least one paragraph with eight to ten sentences or more, usually receiving a fairly detailed contemplation as a result.


After reading a series of one child’s contemplations, from October through June, you get a good idea of the ability to recall, visualize, reflect, contemplate, and experience events on the inside.  You would come away with a basic understanding of the student’s identity, and the progress and growth made since the project started.  As you can see from the long, yet incomplete list of themes, the children followed our motto: “Get into it, and get it out.”



Once students cleared their heads, they were with me in present time: mindful, alert, and not distracted by whatever might have been circulating through their minds and imaginations while I was teaching.  “Contemplation” or “Music” Writing “relaxed” the way for learning, and not only improved their EIQ’s (Emotional Intelligence Quotients), but also their writing (self-expression), and as the kids commented in the “Contemplation Questionnaire,” it helped them in their reading by showing them an inside world of experiences coming from real life as well as their reading lives.    


For more information about “Contemplation Writing,” see my four previous blog post-articles on the BAM Radio Network titled “Contemplation Writing: An Alternative to Journal Writing and Mindfulness Programs.”  This is the fifth in the series.  There are more published articles, newspaper, magazine, and professional publication pieces, sample student contemplations, published student poetry (result of teaching “Contemplation Writing”), and other documentation at my website:

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Jeffrey Pflaum has been an inner-city elementary school teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, for thirty-four years (NYCDOE, retired in 2002). He has worked as a creative writing, whole language, social studies, gifted/talented, physical education, and mentor teacher in grades K – 6 and special education. He coached middle school boys and girls basketball teams and one of his players became coach of the Pace University team. Tennis was also taught on the elementary school level to lower grade kids as part of the NY Junior Tennis League Program.

Pflaum considers himself a teacher-developer-researcher experimentalist who created successful education projects in reading, writing, poetry, thinking, creativity, vocabulary expansion, concentration, and communication skills (EI).

He has written articles for professional newspapers and publications about his curricula. Various programs appeared on web sites such as ERIC and CASEL/Collaborative for the Advancement of Social and Emotional Learning (“Experiences, Reflections, and Insights”). One program was featured at the International National Council of Teachers of English at NYU as one of the best examples of English/Language Arts in the NYC Public Schools, K – 12.

His students’ poetry and prose have been published in college, writers’, gifted secondary, and children’s literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and by major commercial book publishers; read on public radio (Poetry-In-The-Morning, WNYE-FM, sponsored by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative/NYC); and, won honors and awards from PBS, Channel Thirteen/NYC. One student, Noel “Speedy” Mercado, became a top NYC disc jockey on WKTU.

Pflaum has recently published an inspirational book about adolescent reading lives titled MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS: HOW TEACHERS AND PARENTS CAN LEAD THE WAY (Rowman & Littlefield Education, August 2011).

For book reviews, go to to see Kecia Burcham's response to the book, and also, The Teachers College Record for Karen Polk's insightful article.

For Karen Polk's review (8/24/12), from the Teachers College Record, google "MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS - Teachers College Record."

Go to for more articles on "Contemplation Writing," Meditative Writing Ideas, Internet radio interviews on blogtalkradio, published student poetry, and newspaper articles about his book on motivating adolescent readers and Inner Cities Arts Project.

His recent interviews on Contemplation Writing can be found at these "Pure Imagination" links: and Pure Imagination - 07/13/12 | Progressive Radio Network. A second interview on "Connect With Julianna" (Toginet Radio Network) about "Contemplation" or "Music" Writing can be found at these links: and; or, Connect with Creative Educator and Author, Jeffrey Pflaum.


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