Dot Day – Make it Matter!

Dot Day


Yesterday was Dot Day!  Did you ‘make your mark’?  More importantly, did you ‘make it matter’?

My Dot Day was spent proctoring online standardized tests – the antithesis of Dot Day, ironically.  I made a special trip down to our cafeteria to check out our Dot Day wall of awesome which cheered my spirits immensely thanks to our gorgeous art gals, Lisa and Kate.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4And then I came home and forgot to read The Dot to my daughter and play her the Make Your Mark song (but I promise I will keep Dot Day alive and do those tonight!).

After bedtime, I came down to work on a MOOC I am currently enrolled in: Powerful Tools For Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling.   We are spending five weeks learning about the power of telling stories digitally.  It is already one of my new favorite things.  Our first assignment was to create the plan for the story we will make and this is what I am going to do in honor of Dot Day:

Digital Storytelling Plan


So, while it may not have started out as the best Dot Day, it has ended up being a super inspirational Dot Day for me, for sure! I think Vashti would be proud – and I hope I can do justice to such a great book (and author!) in my story!

Dot Day, forever!

POSTSCRIPT: I have started my storyboard and I think I want to change it as a tool for teachers to promote Dot Day and why we as teachers need to make our mark too.  Thoughts?


Make Your Mark!

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 23.10.39

It’s coming soon!  International Dot Day is on September 15, 2014.  It is a day to celebrate “making your mark”. I have posted about Dot Day before:  Dot Day 2012 and Dot Day 2013.  Both posts will give you lots of ideas for Dot Day and some thoughts on how we as educators, can help students connect rather than simply collect the dots on their learning journey.

This year, FableVision Studios have come up with a song for Dot Day.  If you are familiar with “The Dot” you will see the connection between the book and the song and be inspired to make, make, make your mark! How can you encourage your students to use their talents to make their mark?


The Dot Song from FableVision on Vimeo.

Here are the lyrics (download the PDF)

Dot Day Lyrics


Are you interested in joining the Dot Day celebration? Sign up today! Discover more creative ways to celebrate Dot Day
on the FableVision blog and Pinterest pages.

Creativity, Inspiration

Celebrating Creativity Around the World – Make Your Mark and See Where it Takes You!

Do you believe in courage?  In having a go?  In making a mark?

Do you believe in the power of persistence? That one dot can launch a journey?

Then, you believe in “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds.

Here is the reason I love this book so much and have used it in my classroom and in my art room: it all comes down to the word process:

While the book is about art, it really is about process —about ideas,
creative thinking, bravery, expression, original ideas, and sharing.

~Peter H. Reynolds

On September 15th, people around the world will be celebrating International Dot Day. Peter has some ideas for you on how you might join in the celebrations. He has also written a Teachers Guide to The Dot.  There is also a Dot DVD and an interactive, big-screen version of The Dot.

This year, there is also a Celebri-Dots blog on which dots from celebrities are shared.  My favorite is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. If you like her dot, check out her gorgeously glittery book, Plant a Kiss and do yourself a massive favor by reading An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – hil-arious! But back to the dots…

As a former art teacher and lover of all things arty, I decided to gather together some ideas for those of you who are now thinking that this ‘Dot Day’ is the thing for you! Don’t you think celebrating creativity around the world is something worth sharing in?  Of course you do = so on to the ideas!

Wassily Kandinsky

Farbstudie Quadrate, c.1913 is one of Kandinsky’s most easily recognizable works – and the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Dots. There are literally thousands of ways you could have children respond to this work of art.  My suggestion: set up a Kandinsky Studio (coincidentally, the name of my art studio when I was teaching in Bangkok) and provide a ton of materials for inspiration and see where your kids go! Challenge yourself and your kids to go beyond reproducing Kandinsky’s work.  Instead, think more about the process than the product. This was a study in color and how different colors looked when placed next to other colors. What can you do with color to make a dot?  What can you do with positioning dots of different sizes? Do they have to be concentric? What if they were not inside squares but left as circles – or arranged in a circle?  Paint Chips (from hardware store paint sections) are great for providing kids with a huge selection of gorgeous paint colors (don’t tell them I sent you but do ask before you clean them out – you never know, they may have a whole bunch of ‘last season’s’ colors they are dying to get rid of!).

George Seurat

A master in pointillism, Seurat painted in dots, so naturally, he was the second person I thought of.  His work has often been recreated in art classes around the world with the use of cotton q-tips.  By placing dots of color next to other dots of color, new colors are “formed” – or at least, your eyes trick your brain into believing this is so.  Instead of paintbrushes, put out some q-tips and see what treasures evolve!

Jasper Johns

Last year, my fourth graders made a beautiful piece of work inspired by Jasper Johns’ Target.  Again, like Kandinsky, there is no need to completely duplicate his work, just be inspired from it!

Andy Goldsworthy

At our Fall trip up to McCall, Idaho, the past two years, our evening program has included a night of Andy Goldsworthy inspired art.  Goldsworthy is famous for creating art from nature and whilst not all of his work is cyclical or ‘dot-esque’ a lot of it is.  How could you make a dot in your environment? How can you make a dot that leaves a ‘temporary’ mark?  How can you make a dot without opening your paintbox, your pencil case, the crayon box…?

Leave the Paper on the Shelf!

Why use paper when there are so many other options for your dot canvases?  Try using…

  • coffee filters (sprayed with water and dabbed with paint, these can look awesome)
  • paper plates of different sizes – a cheap way to get pre-cut circles.
  • old vinyl records or old CD’s – these could be hung to make a dot-mobile
  • tree cookies (I love the idea of this one! – wearable dot-art from nature)
  • clock faces – how cool to give a dot-tastic makeover to all the clocks in your school!
  • stool seats – convince anyone who has stools (art teacher?) to let you makeover the seats!

Other Cool Ideas…

Fair Ground Paint Spinning

Did you ever go to the fair or show grounds and do one of those paintings where they set the paper spinning and you drip paint from squeeze bottles?  I am SURE someone (code for: my husband) could set something like this up with an electric drill or some such thing. (I have no clue really but that sounds like it might work/might make a mess/would definitely be something kids would remember – therefore totally should be done!

String Art

Again, this may require a bit of help but what about having the kids hammer nails into a circle and then do a gorgeous weaving with colored threads?  Hammering – what’s not to love?

Coffee Inspired Art

Invite your local gourmet barrista to school (I am thinking of Junko in Yokohama at Cafe Eliot)  or better yet, go on a field trip and watch them work their magic on the ‘dot’ that is the foamy cup of coffee.  I bet you would have no trouble getting parents to come and chaperone this field trip!

Dot Photo Contest/Tour

Have kids go on a camera tour around the school or open it up in advance for them to look for ‘dots’ or circles in their environment.  Sometimes they will find them even when they are not looking – and what better way to encourage them to be more observant of their surroundings and develop photo taking, editing and sharing skills at the same time?

Idaho State Capitol

Blowing Bubbles

I can’t remember when I first did this but it is super fun!  Get some cups or circular containers.  Fill them with some water, some water-soluble dyes and some dish-washing liquid.  You will have to experiment with quantities as you go along – to begin with, try a fairly high pigment wash that fills your container about one-third of the way up.  Put in a squirt of dish-washing liquid.  Then, get a straw and blow!  You will have to blow and stir to mix the dye with the bubbles.  Keep blowing until the bubbles rise above the rim of the container.  Then, take a piece of paper and lay it on the top of the container and voila! You have a dot!


I have a couple of books on these at school for inspiration when I was teaching art.  The math involved in making one is pretty impressive though.  I love the opportunity to combine math and art so this would be something I would be especially interested in doing.  I have seen amazing projects done by kids using the mandala as their inspiration – very cool!.  Tibetan monks make these out of sand on the ground – another cool way to move art away from traditional paper.  You could also color rice and use this as your medium for design.

I am sure there are loads of other ideas.  The point is, make it a priority to join in the celebration of creativity around the world.

International Dot Day

September 15

Mark Your Calendars…NOW!

Creativity, Inspiration

Be Uncareful – and 7 Other Brilliant Ways to be Creative

I am a huge fan of Peter H. Reynolds’ work.  As an art teacher in Bangkok, I was in love with The Dot and Ish and as a classroom teacher I am still.  There is something about the books, the illustrations, the message – to me, they are ‘the complete package’ when it comes to sharing what are really important, 21st Century skills. Interestingly, not a computer, iPad or electronic device in sight. I am a huge fan of technology and love finding that device or program that propels students forward, but the more I look into it, the more I am convinced that the skills come first, the need for a tool comes second – and that ‘tool’ may be as simple (and powerful) as  paintbrush or a box of pencils.

I love the message of The Dot and Ish…

  • don’t be afraid to start

  • don’t stop if it is not perfect

Simplicity at it’s best.

Today I read a post on the Fable Vision learning website:

Peter H. Reynolds’ 8 Tips for Creative Publishing

You can read the full post here but in summary, Reynolds’ tips are:

  1. Keep a journal
  2. Just do it!
  3. Publishing – Lite
  4. Go back to school
  5. Set goals
  6. Create your ritual
  7. Unleash imagination
  8. Be uncareful

The full text explains these points and offers excellent advice for those who wish to create.  And isn’t that all of us?  Or at the very least, all of the kids we teach? When I look at these tips, I see a lot that I want to incorporate into the daily creative lives of my students:

  1. Establishing learning journals to recording ideas and wonderings
  2. Encouraging an attitude of action and commitment to lifelong learning
  3. Get your work ‘out there’
  4. Get feedback from your audience
  5. Make learning a priority
  6. Set yourself up to succeed
  7. Think of all the possibilities – and then some!
  8. Take risks and be fearless!

I first heard of FableVision back in March – which surprises me somewhat having been such a fan of Reynolds’ books for so long.  Peter is the founder of FableVision and his brother, Paul, is the CEO. I loved the recent collaboration with Fable Vision and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning – if you have not seen Above and Beyond – an Ode to the 4 C’s (collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity) I encourage you to watch it.  Further investigation into FableVision led me to their mission statement, the first part of which reads:

We are big believers that a well-educated student is not complete without less “test-able” skills such as creativity, communication, self-expression, problem solving, and cultural understanding.  We also need students with self-determination and a desire to learn. 

How can you not love that?

I loved it so much, and share such a similar philosophy, that I applied to be and was accepted as, a FableVision Ambassador.  Among my ‘duties’:

  • Sharing our products and philosophy on an informal basis at individual schools and with colleagues.
  • Writing stories for publications and blogs.
  • Being our eyes and ears in the school world.
  • Sharing the challenges, changes, and opportunities you are facing in the classroom.
  • Using social networks to promote the mission and products.
  • Reaching out to others because of a strong belief FableVision Learning’s mission.

If you are new to the world of Peter H. Reynolds and FableVison, I would like to welcome you with these words:

Click image to download PDF Poster

I would then suggest you check out these free Educator Resources and see if anything resonates with you.

As I have explored this site and others, I feel even more confident about the type of teacher that I have become over the last 16 years.  I keep going back to the letter I sent out to my incoming students prior to the summer break, “Fifth Grade and Fearless” and I am so grateful for the teachers, parents, students, authors, illustrators, thinkers, movers and shakers, who have helped me get to this point in my career.  The best advice I can give anyone in education is to:

seek innovative ideas

build a tribe that inspires

communicate and collaborate

and above all,

be fearless. 

Click image to view the full letter to my incoming fifth grade class of 2012/13
Innovation, Organization, Uncategorized

Reasons You Haven’t “Made It”, How To Keep Going, and Why You Are Enough

I am quickly falling in love with

Simple.  To the point. Witty.

What’s not to love?

I plan on sharing these with my kids tomorrow.  I am intrigued to see what they will think of the use of graphic images to tell such a story.  I think some will LOVE it.  I have fresh index cards and new fine point black sharpies ready too 🙂

We have them thinking about how they are going to eventually share their learning at the end of the process and before they head towards my worst nightmare (reading me a powerpoint) I thought it wise to throw this one up for good measure:

In addition, I would like to share with them 12 Truths to Tell Yourself After A Failure or A Mistake as we conclude the first week of our PYP Exhibition.  I have listed the 12 but for more detail read the full post and remember:

Failure is a prerequisite for great success. If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure.

Here are the 12:

  • It’s okay.  You will be okay.
  • There is no success without failure.
  • Positive thinking creates positive results.
  • Success is always closer than it seems.
  • You are not your mistakes.
  • Life’s best lessons are learned at unexpected times.
  • Mistakes are rarely as bad as they seem.
  • Not getting what you want can be a blessing.
  • You have the capacity to create your own happiness.
  • Mistakes are simply a form of practice.
  • You are making progress.
  • Life goes on.

If you have ever been part of the PYP Exhibition, you will know what a huge and sometimes daunting task it can be – especially when you are 10 or 11 years old!  In light of this – and in addition to everything we have done thus far to prepare and support our kids – I was just thinking that tomorrow I will also read them a book from one of my favorite author/illustrators, Peter H. Reynolds.  The book is called “So Few Of Me” and if you are a Reynolds fan (and even if you are not!) you will not be disappointed.  Here is what Peter had to say about his book:

If The Dot is about getting started, and Ish is about keeping going once you get rolling, So Few of Me is about making sure you save enough time in the rush- rush world we live in to actually BE creative. Dedicated to my twin brother, Paul Reynolds, So Few of Me is a tale of an over-scheduled, multi- list-making, over-worked boy on a journey to get it all done. Of course, that’s not just a tall order, it’s a tall tale. Life’s list never really ends, but we have the power to be ruled by the list… Or to put it down — and dream. You might know a few people in your life that might need a gentle reminder to slow it down a notch. I know I will have to re-read my book once a week to keep myself journeying at a safe speed!