“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Dot

I love to teach art lessons based on children's books. I had two art lessons to plan and teach a couple of weeks ago, one for a grade 5/6 class, and one for a grade 3 class. The lesson for the grade 5/6 class was more of a last minute emergency lesson when plans changed, so I needed something simple with materials that were easily accessible. During lunchtime I used my computer to look for ideas, and I decided on a fun and simple lesson based on the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds. I was able to find it in the school library and I did not need any other materials other than the students' own pencil crayons and some large square pieces of paper that I took a few minutes to cut from 11x17 sheets. The Dot is a wonderful book about believing in yourself and believing in your artwork. Here is a good synopsis. Peter Reynolds is passionate about inspiring kids to be creative and take risks and to feel proud of and confident in their artwork

I began the lesson by reading The Dot to the students, who started off by rolling their eyes (no surprise there lol), but I knew I could pull it off because I had TOCed in the class a few times before, so they trusted me because I had a relationship with them. As I predicted, once I started reading a couple of pages the room was silent and they were all engaged. I find that most kids this age don't like to admit they like to be read to, but they really do still love it. After I read the story I explained the assignment, which I found at this website: http://mrsbrownart.com/5th.htm. It was very simple and I like that it gave the students a lot of choice and little pressure. They were to create an image starting with only one dot on their paper. They could create their dot into whatever they wanted, just let their intuition guide them. I asked them to use the space (not too much blank space left) and to work neatly (not scribbling). This criteria was my own addition, and maybe I didn't need to say it, but it made things a little clearer for a couple of students who wanted to scribble something out quickly just to get it done. Then they were to sign their picture (as Vashti did in the book). Peter Reynolds believes that it's very important for kids to sign their work, as I saw here

For the assignment I asked students to use pencil crayons, crayons, or markers. Some started with pencil and others started right away with colour. While they were working on their creation, I used a projector to show them a short, animated youtube video of the story that I had also found when I looked up the lesson. The students enjoyed the animated version, enjoyed their freedom to draw whatever they wanted, and their dot pictures turned out wonderfully! I wish I had remembered to take pictures. The students had turned their dot into everything from a flower, to a face, to a dolphin, to a giraffe, to a skyscraper, to a nature scene...and some had turned their dot into a design with more dots, lines, and shapes, as shown in the example above that I showed them. They enjoyed the creative process, and almost all of the students were very proud of their end result. It was a great lesson and a wonderful book. When I got home I ordered it for my own collection and will keep it on hand in my TOC bag for an emergency art lesson. It's a great idea for a TOC lesson because the only materials needed are the book, paper, and crayons or pencil crayons, which the students usually have in their desks. 

When my book arrived in the mail I decided to adapt the same lesson for the grade 3 class I was planning an art lesson for. I had TOCed in this particular grade 3 class many times; the teacher sometimes asks me to plan a lesson or two because she knows that I don't mind and that I have fun with it. This time I found a frame to use here (on the last page) and I blew it up on the photocopier to make larger copies. The lesson and instuctions were exactly the same other than the grade 3's were to colour the frame (anyway they wanted) and cut it out. They enjoyed the story even more than the grade 5/6's and they loved the animated version as well. Their pictures turned out great too, but some students had trouble getting started. I actually think it's a better lesson to use with intermediate grades. The older students came up with some really amazing pictures starting with just a dot.

As you can tell, I think The Dot is a great book, I also read it to my own children and they loved it too. I found it listed in this list of 100 best children's books. I ordered the sequel, Ish and will be looking for some activites to use with Ish in the future... I say one can never own too many good books. :-)