Making Thinking Visible with Sketchbooks in the 5/6 Art Room

Handmade Sketchbooks

Last summer I was thrilled to spend a week in the Project Zero Classroom program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education studying big ideas by prominent figures in education that I admire. Naturally, I brought this experience into the classroom with a renewed commitment to project based learning and a generous amount of technology integration. Our focus this year has been on the process of art making, which we began with handmade sketchbooks. I wrote about this in detail on my blog in October 2015. You can read it at this link:

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60 to Zero in Five Seconds Flat

As the year progressed, more than 400 sketchbooks were created and filled with notes, sketches, plans, and observations. The sketchbooks have become a regular part of each class, whether as a “bell ringer” or integral element to projects.

Two different approaches were taken in making the sketchbook covers memorable and interesting. The first term covers were made with collage and the third term covers were made with ZoneDoodles. Students were engaged by both mediums with excellent and creative results.

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Collage with Mod Podge sealer
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ZoneDoodles with metallic Sharpies

Close Looking

Throughout the year, students had many opportunities for Making Thinking Visible by documenting Close Looking experiences. We planted Romanesco Broccoli in windowsill pots in the fall, hoping to grow broccoli heads that naturally grow in the form of the Fibonacci sequence.

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Close Looking at broccoli leaves

We were expecting produce by January and even by late May, there were no heads, just lush leaves. At the first of June we brought the plants outside to our courtyard to see if some direct sun and possible pollination would help the plant to form heads. It is too early to tell whether the new location will impact the plants.

Broccoli plants outside
Broccoli plants outside

Dental Molds

Sometimes it takes something just a little bit different to pique our curiosity and engage us in Close Looking. This is the case with dentals molds. With two friends who are dental hygienists, it was easy to collect enough dental molds so each student had one to examine closely and sketch in her/his sketchbook. The students were fascinated by the molds because most had never considered what teeth actually look like and had been content to draw a smile by drawing an upturned crescent with a horizontal line corner to corner and several short vertical lines to indicate teeth. The dental molds gave them a lot to consider.

Angie drawing eight views of a dental mold
Angie drawing eight views of a dental mold

Sketchbook Tours

Throughout the past week, students have been filming Sketchbook Tours with the help of a classmate. Sketchbook Tours are nothing more than one student holding an iPad over a classmate’s sketchbook while the author flips the pages and points out various favorites or challenges within the book. This gives the students a feel for publishing their work and a chance to reflect on a collection or body of work. Because sketchbooks are not comprised of finished masterpieces and instead contain rough drawings and simple sketches, students have an authentic opportunity to critique their own work and to consider revisions and edits. Conversely, the sketchbook tour can catch us by surprise as we suddenly notice a great detail for the first time or a simple addition or subtraction that turns a sketch from okay to awesome.

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