Tag Archives: journalling

Rolling back on a concept: Thinking Routines

I wanted to write a bit about Thinking Routines. As a person who is pretty new to them myself, I often wonder how much “common knowledge” there is around these funny little things we do. When I first heard of them, they were definitely spoken of as though a “thinking routine” was like an apple: something that obviously everyone understood what is was, why it was, and what it did. This absolutely wasn’t true for me, and I had to spend some time working with them, using them, researching and understanding them. I thought I would share what I learned, just in case it triggers any interesting thoughts for any of you. If not, my apologies and please carry on to more interesting areas of the internet!

Here’s my first epiphany: “Thinking Routines” isn’t a name for some special tool, it’s just literally a “routine” that you carry out to help you “think.” That’s the most important part. Every day we train our brains to do things, it’s like a muscle so if we work with specific parts of it, those are the parts that get stronger (biology friends please don’t be mad, I mean this as a metaphor). If we train small brains to “think” then they will. The routine helps learners access the process of deeper thinking easily, by strengthen the learning muscle/pathway, and by providing a framework through which to understand new things.

Okay, but some “Thinking Routines” are specific. There are all kinds! At Museum School we use the ones that Harvard developed to promote artful and creative thinking, but anyone can make up a thinking routine for use with learners. There might even be some cases when your made up routines work much better, because you know the needs and interests of your students. So don’t be shy about developing your own.

There’s lots of different ways we can use those routines. Some promote creative thought, others analytical thought, others visual thought… the list goes on. A class that is totally ready when they walk in the museum doors, has been using a few different routines, and is comfortable with 3-4 different ones that serve different ends. We can adapt a lot of our plans to whatever routines you’ve been working on, and you can suggest them when we partner-teach at the museum.

The best routines are adaptable; they can be quick data gathering exercises, or they can be drawn out with detail. We’ll have a variety of time constraints here, so ideally thinking routines also help us be flexible.

There’s a world of literature on how routines help learners, but the most impactful things to my practice has been learning how routines build confidence (learners know what is expected of them so they are able to build independence and self-assurance), and how they establish healthy patterns so that there’s less conflict (less opportunity for rebellion if everyone knows and is comfortable with routines).

We’re always eager to learn about thinking routines, so if you’ve tried some or made up your own, we’d love to hear about it!

New Forum – Review your Journal

ahhh… the eternal quest… for the perfect journal.

Is it easier to write in your journal if you actually like it? Does it matter if your journal falls apart before it’s full? Soft cover or hard, which do you prefer?

These are the questions we sometimes grapple with, and we know you’re pondering this too. Personally, I’m not very good with these types of details, I’m a bit of a utilitarian in some ways, so I’m more interested in the supply chain than most of the other details.

But generally, we know that there are some benefits and drawbacks (and some fatal flaws) to different journal designs. We recommend that you use something coil bound, with a hard cover so it can be easily carted around and written in while standing or maybe sitting on a carpeted floor.

Lately though, we’ve seen the same white coil bound books. If you look at your Journey into Journalling (I forget why the extra L – it’s on purpose though) book, on page 8 you’ll see the main problem with these… the coil pops out. Magically. ;)

I find them a bit big myself. But I’m not the end user here – your students are. If you think they are “magically” inclined i.e. they are likely to methodically work a coil out of place until they have a dangerous eye poking spring  and a wild collection of loose papers, you might want to consider a different journal.

But which one?

I’m hoping that we can compare notes. If you happen to be a journal writer, or if you’ve found the perfect book (or the imperfect one) in your work with students, please head on over to the forums and post a review. We’d love to know what your journey into Journalling has taught you about… well… the journal.

Memory Sketch

Memory sketching is one of the thinking routines that we recommend getting your students used to before coming to the museum. Basically, you have them look at something, then later, ask them to sketch it.
You can work up to this by giving them an object to sketch, taking it away, and having them sketch immediately. This builds up the skill so students aren’t so intimidated when they’re tasked with drawing something they haven’t seen in a while.
Doing this helps them build skills in pattern and design element recognition. Also it takes some of the pressure off making exact sketches. Like most things we do, it’s helpful for you to lead by doing. Show them your messy abstract drawings of everyday things and they’ll know it’s okay to try.

book photo Journal drawing

Second Nature

So I said I would start putting more of my journal pages in the blog, and here I am making good on my promise. When the new exhibits went up this fall, I thought I had forever to spend with them. Now that Lawren Harris‘ works have gone, DaveandJenn‘s The Wellspring has moved on, and Jennifer Wanner‘s Second Nature is going dark this week… I can’t help but think I NEED MORE TIME!!!

I did take an afternoon to spend with Wanner’s beautiful images before the holiday started  – and I used one of the classic thinking routines: See Think Wonder. Using three columns, make note first of what you see, then what you think, then what all those combined make you wonder. Seems a bit basic, but once you try it, you get a sense of actually how helpful it is for organizing your thoughts. Or even just moving your observations to a deeper level. Next time you’re standing in front of something and not quite sure how to feel (which, for me is basically all the time), and give it a try in your head.

My sketchbook entry & an example of the thinking routine See Think Wonder

My sketchbook entry & an example of the thinking routine See Think Wonder

This is the last weekend to see Wanner’s haunting and beautiful exhibition Second Nature at Glenbow, so you’ve still got time if you haven’t seen it yet.

Not that we don’t have some great shows coming up next….

Blogs are Digital Journals!!

So, every few weeks the Calgary Campus Open Minds team (all the folks who coordinate sites, and all the reps from CBE and CCSD) get together to compare practices, share insights, and conduct a book study. These meetings are inspiring, because we learn about the exciting things happening at other sites, and also because we learn about the tools that other coordinators are using which work well.

Our colleagues over at Zoo school mentioned that they have been sharing their journal entries with teachers, and I had the super obvious revelation that this blog is in fact a digital journal. So I think over the next while, I’ll start interspersing pages from my journal between the more traditional blog entries. Let me know what you think!

 

Journal by Amanda

 

 

What to write…

Lately when I have been sitting down with the intention to write a blog post I write a few sentences, then I get stuck. Then I stop. Then I add “write a blog post” to the back of my to-do list and go do something else.

It’s been awhile, so I thought I should devote some energy to really thinking about why it’s been hard for me to write. After much more procrastination, three snack breaks, a walk, and two changes of scenery, I think I’m starting to make a little headway.

I think it’s the same reason I don’t like to make art, or write songs, or draft a book… (I’ve rarely/never done these things, I just have an enormous faith in my creative ability – it’s a generational thing)…  It’s because I don’t really think I have anything important to add.

There’s already a million stories, songs, paintings, sculptures, and blog posts. If I’m not confident that whatever I’m putting out there is enriching and unique, what’s the point?

I am eternally baffled with all the pictures and posts on social media, clearly people feel the need to share – and I wonder, do they think the picture of their breakfast has value? What type of value? To whom?

This new world of sharing our ideas and opinions is both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I love that I can stay connected to friends around the world doing interesting things, or ask someone far away for advice and get feedback immediately. In the museum today I sat in on a class about Blackfoot culture, the presenter Blaire Russell, showed a picture of Deerfoot a runner or message taker – who would run from community to community to share news – my, how things have changed.

But I also think that this new medium is having complex impacts on our culture, and the ways in which we relate to each other. I work a lot with youth, and the high levels of social anxiety they are feeling astound me. At the same time, they communicate freely over the internet, saying and doing things online that they would never dream of saying or doing IRL.

I’ve also noticed that online at least, we’re all becoming quite quick to judge and slow to have sympathy. In some ways I wonder if this is a natural consequence of social justice, and if marginalized folks are finding a voice and using it with a vengeance (fantastic!) But I also notice many of the judgments serve the interests of the status quo. Seeing the internet pounce on people is a terrifying thing, and intuitively I feel that it’s less of an “anonymous” thing with careful critical thought behind it, and more like a knee jerk reaction.

The proliferation of sharing, combined with the threat of enraging the cyber community, makes me extra reluctant to put anything out into the world. Firstly, who am I to think that anything I say or think is important enough for others to read?  Secondly, given that, as well as the threat of millions of haters, why bother?

I subscribe to the idea that art is a passion that is burning to get out of you. I don’t have much of that. Mostly I have “meh.. I guess I could make that.” And I’d rather not fill the world with my mediocre ideas. But I do have some passion, and some types of expertise… as all of us do. I’m in love with the idea that we can share those things with others – maybe blog posts are useful for that, but I’m sure there’s other ways too (I’ve always got the concept of the salon floating around on the back burner in my mind as a viable modern institution).

So I’ll keep posting here – when I feel like I’ve got something to share that I’m passionate about, or that I have an inkling is useful to you, given my particular expertise.

Otherwise I’ll keep my mouth shut and my photos of my breakfast to myself.

Keep posting yours though!

They fascinate me, and I do think they have some type of value and consequence… when I figure that out, I’ll write a blog post about it.

 

 

 

Go ahead and sketch with them

sketch by amanda

Early sketch by Amanda – [not pictured, a dinosaur I drew yesterday that looks exactly the same]

By the time I come into your classrooms to introduce the idea of sketching… it’s not really an introduction. Most students have begun drawing at least a bit, and (hopefully) you’ve been working with them on their sketching too.

But what if you’re not particularly “artistically inclined?”

I’ll be honest, I feel like I hit a plateau in my drawing some time around age 14. I knew how to copy line drawings, but I had no clue how to move into drawing from life, and was worlds away from being able to draw real people (I do however have a very large, yet unimpressive, collection of anime style drawings of myself and all my teenage idols). I didn’t know how to learn more about drawing. I had heard (and said) that practice will make you better – but to be honest, after a certain point, your practice also needs to involve a great deal of reflection and analysis, which I didn’t know how to do.

Getting to that point is like shooting a basketball a million times and still missing the hoop. If you don’t know the technique to improve, you likely won’t.

So practice isn’t just about sitting alone and trying over and over, we are social creatures and we develop skills through the study of others.

I never cared enough that my drawing skills were nothing to brag about at parties, so when I hit that plateau, I just quit.

But – since being in Museum School, I’ve had to dust off those drawing skills. Marnie encouraged me, and told me that if I was getting the students to sketch, then I should be prepared to do it too…and absolutely she was right. I connect best with your students when we’re sitting on the floor sketching together. We wonder together, I stop answering questions, and I start asking them.

I learn a lot from watching your students sketch. Their technique, and their perspective. It has taken me some time to figure out how to crack open a conversation and learn from the students while we draw, and I don’t always get there, but when I do it’s awesome.

The other thing I learned is how to draw better. Literally. I took a class. (Okay – so all of us Calgary Campus Open Minds School folks had a super interesting lesson with Ron Wigglesworth, big thanks to everyone who made that happen). It was really stressful for me, way outside my comfort zone, but I think I learned a lot.

Letting yourself learn is an important activity for teachers. I think that when I am drawing beside your students I am letting myself learn too. It changes the dynamic between us.

I’m not going to try and tell you what I learned at the workshop. All I want to share is that it was good to be together working to improve a skill with others, being open to comments and suggestions, and learning from someone with an inspiring vision and a thoughtful approach.

I don’t really think that being a “good artist” would help me be a better educator. But I do think that the skills of sitting and reflecting, looking in new ways, and being critical of my work (or my impact) do help me be the best self I can be for working with your students. That’s also what I’m asking for from them.

 

I think sketching helps me practice that, and sketching together becomes our common learning experience.  We learn together.

Perspective & Productivity

Last week the Open Minds school teachers and coordinators met for a little professional development and a lot of new ideas. The theme for the evening was to look at our environments a bit more closely, and watch out for the things that we often miss. This was a great tie in to some of the more general themes of CCOM

The facilitators, those lovely folks who have the privilege of running one of this city’s most creative and engaging educational experiences, sent us all outside. It was an absolutely beautiful night, crisp and cool and a bit nostalgic with the long shadows in the fading light.

Our first mission was to explore on our walk through a particular lens. As we sat around tables in small groups, we discussed and debated and picked a role. One group chose poets, another chose by-law officers, another mathematicians. The idea was to look at our environment from the perspective of a particular role, and see what we might normally miss.

Our second task was to use a particular journaling technique to capture the insights of our new viewpoint. When teachers join the Open Minds School Program they’ve given a fantastic book called “Journey into Journaling” (here’s a description of the book based on the Calgary model, but described by the good folks over at Museum School London). The book describes all types of different tools to capture experiences through journaling. Some of the favorite techniques of teachers at our table were:

The 60 second sketch

(students put as much detail into their picture as they can, but only for 60 seconds, so a lot of the inhibitions of drawing are lost in the rush of time)

 Character creation

(students make up a character that may have used the object or interacted with the environment)

 Sense journaling

(students record senses connected with the object or environment)

My group chose to take our walk through the lens of a psychologist, using the journaling technique of just looking for colors. As soon as we went outside we realized that perhaps we set our own standards a bit high, and after a short discussion we changed our profession to architects (if only it were that easy!) But it was a great lesson; surely we could have done the exercise as psychologists, it wouldn’t have been impossible, it just felt too hard. How lucky that we, as adults, can just change the assignment to suit our needs. I wonder how assignments would change if I gave children the same power.

My big “ah-hah” moment of the night came as I was journaling. Just seeing the Calgary skyline through colors brought me to some interesting thoughts (nationalism, ecological design or the appearance of it, personal glorification, materials, etc.) and I found it interesting to apply a very specific lens to the view. Interesting and perhaps a little embarrassing, as I was drawing the Bow building in my black pen I wrote “Bow building…. Blue”

AH-HAH!!!

Oh boy. How many times have I looked at that building and not made that connection? But we’re not really trained to look deeper are we? (okay okay….I know I’m not really setting the bar very high here).

On our second walk about we were invited to look through whatever lens we wished, we weren’t bound by our group, nor by the facilitators. I get the sense that the second round was a lot more productive for folks, just because after you’ve been restricted, it’s so much more exciting to be free.

On the other hand, freedom does sometimes lead to chaos, and I know some of us likely just stood around and chatted for our last walk…

I think I’ll leave this post right there & head back to the students… thinking about how I can use their time here to be the counterpoint freedom to their lives at school, and how I can make sure that with freedom, they stay productive and make the most of their time together. Maybe I need to re-think what productivity really is…

A wonderful night, lots of learning, and a great opportunity to connect.