OMG Have I got a teaching tip for anyone who has ever pulled their hair out trying encourage students to make their drawings bigger, to fill up the page. It’s only taken me like 25 years of working with students to figure this out. This is big.
There’s this variations of a bookmaking project that I do with mostly first and second graders that includes a drawing. The bigger and bolder the drawing is, the better it looks in the book. Needless to say, it’s such a struggle for this age of student to make their drawings big enough.
Usually I give the students the paper that their drawing goes on and do everything but beg them to draw bigger. Well, sometimes I beg. Then, yesterday (Friday) Carter, a 7 year-old in my first class of the day, suggested that, before they start their drawing, I lay the paper inside the frame that will surround it. It had never occurred to me to do this, so I tried it out in my next class of the day.
Unbelievable. In my next class, after sliding the paper behind the frame before the drawing began, every single student filled up the paper with large bold drawings to go along with their stories.
Never has this happened before.
Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe this class had been bribed enough times to fill up the page that they now did it instinctively. I had one more class to go.
Next class, same thing happened. They filled up the space with big drawings.
Some students lifted the frame away after the first part of the drawing was done so that they could make their drawings even bigger. OMG I was so happy. My conclusion: if you want students to make a drawing to fill up a space, FRAME THE SPACE with a dark frame! I don’t know why it works, but far be it from me to ever think I can fathom what goes on in the mind of a 7 year-old.
Now here’s the part that gives me chills…I have to ask myself, why did Carter put forth his suggestion? I give credit to this: recently I was impressed by reading Malke Rosenfeld’s book about engaging students in whole body learning. While I teach different subject matter than Malke, I am deeply impressed by how she gives her students permission to explore the learning space before she begins her lessons. I took this to heart, and this week, for the first time, within certain boundaries, I encouraged students to fold and unfold, then explore and examine the materials that we were using together. In some way I think this sense of engagement with the materials led Carter to making a suggestion that was based on what would have worked better for him. I already know that my best teaching tips come from the single digit crowd, I just don’t always know how to tap into them.
So thank you Malke, thank you Carter, and OMG I am so happy.
I used to carry around this really big sketch book when I lived in NYC.
The way I would get comfortable with a place was by drawing it.
For years I volunteered on day a week in the bookbindery located under the Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MMA is not very close to subway station. I usually would do the walk to take the subway back to Brooklyn, but this one day I was just so puckered out I thought I’d take the bus downtown.
I rarely took buses, so I didn’t know which was going where, but at 5:30 on a winter’s evening, with the typical ocean of buses heading downtown, I figured I could get on just any bus and chances were good I’d be able to get off near a subway station.
I got on the first bus that I saw. Walked on, paid my fare, nodded and smiled at the bus driver, found a seat and let my thoughts drift to thoughts of home. ..then it occurred me that I might have left my keys at the Met. This would be a Very Bad Thing.
I looked through my bag. No keys. Started taking things out of my bag. Still no keys. I started to panic. The Met would closed up by 6:00.
I rushed up, got off as the bus pulled to the next stop. Got to the sidewalk. Stopped. Checked my bag again before zooming back uptown. The keys were there (of course they were…). Sigh. Relief. But….
OH NO> in my hurry to get off the bus, after taking stuff out of my bag, I realized that MY SKETCHBOOK WAS STILL ON THE BUS. Now I had a reason to panic. I didn’t want to lose that sketchbook. I hailed a cab. At rush hour in NYC it was some kind of miracle that I could find a cab so fast. I told the cabby I had an unusual request – to which he responded by nearly throwing me out of the cab before I explained that I needed to find a bus, and yes, I would pay him. The game was on!
We were now getting close to 59th Street. There were just scores of buses on the street. I hadn’t paid attention to the bus I got on, but I remembered acknowledging the bus driver. Finally, I saw the bus driver from the cab. Jumped out (paid the cabby, with a tip) and rushed to get to a place where I could get on to the bus.
In my absence, someone had picked up my sketchbook, looked through it, and passed it on to someone else.
That person had looked through the book and shared it with another passenger. Who also kept it in circulation.
In fact, I think the sketchbook had circulated through the whole bus. How do I know this? I know this because the moment I stepped on to the bus and the passengers saw me…
Last night 15 people showed up at the library for a couple of hours to make patterns based on lines and circles. I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect but that didn’t keep them from showing up. A brave bunch. The participants were tweens, teens, and adults. There was at least a 50 year gap between the youngest and oldest: it was quite wonderful to have this group all in one room, as each generation brings their own aesthetic, energy, and reflective questions with them.
I demonstrated two ways of making designs: using lines (which I wrote about in my previous post) and intersecting circles, which people have been exploring for many centuries. I had originally thought I would show just the circles geometry, but then considered that some people might be really uncomfortable using a compass. A few people just worked with just the lines, a few people worked with just with circles, and the rest did both.
Some people were curious about the math that went into the number patterns that I gave them, and I explained it to those who asked.
At the next workshop I will bring in my laptop and show Dan Anderson’s linear mod open processing page, as well as the tables in desmos.com to people who want to know more.
There was a great mix of approaches to this way of working.
I embarrassed myself by not having reviewed the process for making the circle patterns right before the class. I had made many samples of the “seed of life” circles patterns, but then I had done other designs, and when I started demonstrating I got quite confused. I had to go sequester myself for a bit to reconstruct the pattern.
One young man didn’t have any interest in coloring anything in. Not only that, but he decided to try out his own pattern of lines. Actually, he tried out everything he could think of, with both the circles and the lines, and ended up with a pile of papers filled with all sorts of designs. It was delightful to see him working out his own templates and number sequences.
By the end of the workshop this young man had started doing some origami, which he graciously gifted to me. I photographed (above) his crane with the work of an adult, because I so enjoyed seeing having all these young people and adults in one room, all together making art.