Making Thinking Visible

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Quotes help motivate me when I’m not able to find the motivation within myself especially on hard days.  I have spent hours searching for quotes on many different topics and I always find that this helps to refocus my energy on my goals whether it’s in the classroom, my life or in the gym.  Quotes help me visualize a positive result, make connections and reflect on experiences.  It’s in the process of reading them that this happens.  It’s almost instantaneous.  Sometimes a really good quote will stay in my mind all day or even longer.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it’s the courage to continue that counts”.  -Winston Churchill

That one has been on my mind for a long time and I can go back and remember it when I need the extra push.

Students need this too. We need to make thinking and reflecting on learning a visible process and involve students in creating visual examples of their thinking and learning for others to see.

In the first few weeks of school I designed a way to start this process off and I really want to keep it going throughout the year. By using the book “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds to introduce themes of believing in yourself, never giving up, taking a risk to learn something new and paying it forward students represented their learning through discussion, making art and putting it in their own words.  Their work is now displayed in our school. The quotes they wrote are posted near the murals they collaborated on to paint.  I will continue thinking of ways to help my students learn to work together and to practice the message from the book.  Practicing and reminding students about CARES principles in many different settings will bring this to life, but also helping to empower children to learn from their mistakes and change their choices in the future.

When our faculty created their own artwork based on the book “The Dot” we wrote messages to inspire children with our artwork.  This process put visible thinking into our own reflective practice. In the end I think we were surprised by how exciting the result was with this simple idea.

Here is some of our own work.

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At our All School meeting the children presented what they created in art and in their classrooms to share about their learning.

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 I hope to keep this type of learning going all year and continually apply different processes to make it exciting for kids to show their thinking.




Never Give Up!

I’ve heard the same message throughout my life, but up until recently I have been merely repeating what I have always heard. My grandfather used to tell me, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again”. When I played sports my coaches would say no matter how bad the game is going, “Don’t quit”. My teachers repeatedly reminded the class, “Try your best”. After hearing these words over and over they are bound to stick. Words have a certain power to them but all these phrases are meant to instil a belief in oneself that anything is possible if you work for it. This is a life lesson that is learned through trial and error.  It is learned by going after a goal and failing at it, but having a belief in yourself that one day you will get there.  It takes more than encouraging words spoken by caring adults to really inspire children. We have to find ways to empower children to build lasting belief in themselves.  We have to make learning so interesting that even if they fail at it they want to keep trying. We have to make failing part of the process, not an undesirable result.  Failing and failing really hard is how learning happens because to fail at something you have to put forward a huge amount of effort.  Failing is not about getting a grade and it’s not the same as giving up. These are results of a fear of failure. Most people, adults and children alike, have a fear of failure. Imagine that! Why are people so afraid to fail? No one wants to be known as a failure, but what if we changed the meaning of failure? How can we change the face of failure and make it motivational?  When children are learning to walk they crawl first, they fall first and then one day magically they take that first step.  It’s already ingrained in us to fail first before we experience success.  At some point in our lives we learn that failure is “bad” and we stop chasing after dreams.  We learn to do what we are naturally good at it.  Sadly some people don’t find that very easy to uncover in themselves.  Why do you have to be naturally talented at something to learn how to do it and do it well?  I see examples of people doing extraordinary things that are way beyond anything they could be naturally good at.  Let’s stop telling children to find their talents and instead empower them to chase after their dreams.  Let’s stop making failure so fatal.  Let’s be there with encouragement when they fail and help them pick themselves back up and keep going.  Let’s show them that we aren’t afraid to fail either and chase after a dream that has been hidden away from our own fear of failure. We need to send this message to children that we believe in them enough to let them fail and teach them how to learn that their failure is making them stronger not weaker. Help children uncover the meaning behind their failed attempts.  Help them to see that if they were trying to accomplish something and they didn’t get to their goal right away that they have to keep going and one day they will get there.

K.T. Murphy Teachers Getting Creative!

I love working with my students and helping them learn through the process of creating art, but today I had a lot of fun with some of our teachers too! Thanks for stopping by and taking a minute to make your mark and share in the collaboration of our International Dot Day murals!

The painting process is going to continue until Thursday.  Everyone is welcome to come in, take a break and paint!

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All School Meeting 9/23- Celebrate Literacy and Art!

Our all school meeting is on Tuesday, September 23rd.  We are celebrating literacy and art because we want students to know the importance of reading and building their creative skills as artists! There are two global learning events that we are highlighting at our all school meeting, International Dot Day and Global Read Aloud 2014.

International Dot Day is a worldwide celebration of creativity started by teacher Terry Shay and based on the book “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds.  The idea of participating is simple. Read “The Dot” and create artwork inspired by the story.  “Make a mark and see where it takes you”, but it’s much more than that. The story reflects many important life lessons and students pick up on them in the deeper message of the story. International Dot Day began in 2010 and now includes over 74 countries around the world where students are creating artwork inspired by “The Dot” and having discussions about the book. When I introduced this learning event to students I told them that they would be connecting with hundreds of other students around the world who are working together to spread the message of International Dot Day,  “Create Bravely” and “Make Your Mark”. It’s about empowering children to see that anything is possible if they try.

The Global Read Aloud and International Dot Day are connected.  The author study for GRA14 is Peter H. Reynolds! Here are the recommended books by this author for GRA14. “The Dot” is not on the list because of the growing participation of International Dot Day! The idea is simple but powerful.  Read the same book at the same time around the world.  Then teachers choose how they will incorporate learning activities that tie in with the book and connect with other students.

To make the collaboration easier for everyone, for the author study we recommend reading these books:
Week 1: The North Star
Week 2: I’m Here
Week 3: Ish
Week 4: Sky Color
Week 5: Going Places
Week 6: Your Choice!

If you want to learn more visit the links on this post.

Note: There are other book choices for the GRA14 that may appeal to older students.

Happy reading and creating!

In Their Own Words

One of the most interesting moments this first week of school has been listening to my students put the message of the story “The Dot” into their own words. Their responses show a range and many extend way beyond their years. It has been a great opportunity for me to listen to them and set expectations for listening with the children.

We will continue to revisit this story throughout the school year. I am trying new ways to help students share their work with a broader audience and explained to them we will be using technology to accomplish that goal. They’re excited about more people seeing their art!

This week we will finish creating the collaborative dot murals. Students will also interview each other and record the responses. We will create a video of some of the responses and post it at a later time. Here are few student responses when asked to put the message of the story into their own words. I will post more next week.

“Even if you don’t appreciate your art someone else might think it’s good.”

“Anything is possible.”

“You can do anything if you work hard.”

“There are no mistakes in art.”

“Don’t be afraid to do your art your own way.”

“You never know if what you do will inspire someone.”

“No matter what you do it can still be beautiful even if it’s just a dot.”

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

“Who cares if you can’t draw you really could if you try.”

“Even if you don’t think you can, you never give up.”

“It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a great artist or not.  If you try you can do it.”

“Anything can be art. However it looks it’s art. If you look at something closely, you can see the art in it.”

“No matter what you draw it will always be art because you made it.”


Want to participate in Dot Day?

Here are just a few ways you can join in with your students to collaborate on this worldwide celebration of creativity. 

1. Read Aloud, “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds.

2. Watch the animated version of “The Dot”. I am showing this to my students in art. Discuss what makes someone an artist and why it’s important to inspire other people. Here is the link to youtube.

3. Create dots based on a topic students are learning about.

examples: Dots filled with letters or numbers, science related dots, dots with poems written inside, dots with patterns…

4. Post your students dots on Twitter.  Use #ktmdotday.

5. Adults can participate too! Come to the art room and make your own dot.

6. September 15, 2014 is International Dot Day. You can have your own celebration of creativity in your classroom or contact me If you or your class is participating and want to be part of the KT Murphy Make Your Mark! video. 

For more information about International Dot Day and to officially register and sign-up go to the Dot Club website.

Check out Pinterest for Dot Day inspiration too.