Based on the book, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, the story tells about a young girl (Vashti) who thinks she can’t draw. Her art teacher tells her to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti jabs the paper with a dot and then signs her name as requested by her teacher. As the story moves on, Vashti discovered that she really can be creative. And, as a little boy looks at all her paintings, she encourages him just as her teacher encouraged her. International Dot Day, celebrated September 15th-ish, is a day to help children (and adults) focus on how to “make their mark.”
Enter Design Thinking! The empathy part of the process is what grabbed me so here is what we did.
Each student received a design-thinking-dot-activity sheet with a large circle drawn on it. The dot is drawn off-center to allow for jotting notes. The children were told to choose a partner who was not their best friend – I wanted them to learn something new about someone they didn’t know quite as well.
Having recently read Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring out the Maker in Every Student, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, I decided to use the posters provided at their website. The authors have taken the design thinking process and made it into an easy-to-understand format for younger children.
I started the lesson by telling students that I’d taken care of the “L” for them.
- L – Look, Listen, and Learn: This is looking for a something to create, fix, make better . . . The problem the students had to solve was to create a dot that told about their partner.
- A – Ask tons of questions: We brainstormed a few questions that students could ask their partner such as, “What are your favorite foods, colors, sports? What places to you like to visit?” Students were given 2 minutes each to ask questions. They were to jot down answers in the space next to their circle. What was funny is that every time the timer went off, you could hear the groans – “That was too fast!” “I’m not finished!” I assured them they would get another chance.
- U – Understand the problem or process: This is where students had the chance to ask additional questions of their partner. If they couldn’t think of anymore to ask, they could always say, “What else would you like to tell me?” For this, I gave the students 1 minute each to wrap it up.
- N – Navigate ideas: We discussed what navigate means; for example, making connections to a phone’s navigation system. I told the students they had to navigate through all they had learned and then decide how they would decorate the dot in a way that told about their partner. This was the hardest part because it was 1-2 minutes (depending on age) of quiet thinking time! They could sketch ideas outside of the circle but no questions were allowed and they couldn’t start drawing inside the dot! I was amazed at how focused the students were as they just sat there and thought! As I walked around during a 1st grade class, I heard a gasp from a little girl. I leaned over and asked if she had suddenly had an idea. “Yes!” she said, as she grinned and excitedly nodded her head.
- C – Create: Only after going through the above steps were the students ready to draw. I reminded them that they were NOT to draw something they liked; it had to be for and about their partner. No using the designer’s favorite colors! A comment from a first grader confirmed that she “got it” – as I announced it was now time to start creating, I heard a voice call out, “But, I’m still on the U. I’m not ready for C yet!”
- H – Highlight and fix: After 10 minutes or so, I asked everyone to stop where they were because we needed to move to the “H” step. This involved checking with the partner to get their opinion. Was the designer drawing what the partner had in mind? Was there anything else the designer needed to add? I absolutely LOVED listening in on these conversations! These were some of the most thoughtful discussions I’ve ever heard from entire groups of students. Not one person said anything negative! I heard conversations like, “Are you going to add the food I like?” “Yes, I was planning to do that next.” The video below shows a 4th grade teacher working with a student. The audio isn’t good but you can still see how they are talking through what changes they can make and what they like.
- LAUNCH! Our launch was a simple one; the students shared their dots by describing what their partner liked. Then they were placed on the bulletin board.
I was amazed at how well this lesson went – for every single age group (1st – 4th)! All I did was guide the process and the students took off! It was great to see the teachers involved. Design thinking is new to them, too, but they eagerly joined in. Some of their comments:
- “You know, this design thinking can be used in other areas, too. I’m thinking writing for sure and maybe even math.”
- “Today’s lesson was so therapeutic.”
- Another teacher told me, “I was a bit stressed about drawing. Who’s going to see this? What if it’s not good enough?”
Sometimes it’s hard for teachers to “let go” but when we do, the work students produce is incredible! I almost decided not to do this with first graders; just wasn’t sure if they could grasp the concept. Wow! Was I ever wrong!! It didn’t matter one bit that they couldn’t spell what their partner told them. These little ones were able to jot down symbols, pictures, whatever it took to remember their partner’s answers.
To celebrate International Dot Day, Mrs. Crumley’s first graders searched for dots in our courtyard. The students were divided into groups of three and given these instructions:
- Each person takes a photo of something shaped like a dot.
- Take a selfie or get someone else to take a photo of the members of the group.
After a couple of photography pointers to avoid blurry images, we headed out to our courtyard.
Within just a few seconds, we heard excited voices getting their team’s attention by calling out such things as:
“Look! A snail! That’s shaped like a dot.” “Look at that pipe. It has round holes that look like dots!”
After all photos were collected, we returned to the lab where the pictures were added to Pic Collage for Kids (love this version because there are no ads). Collages were printed for everyone (you know how important it is for children to take something home!).
Here’s a short video of the activity.
On International Dot Day, as we discussed how students could “make their mark” (both artistically and by helping others), the 3rd graders were asked to draw a dot using the Drawing Pad app. They could make their dot any way they chose. The next step was to brainstorm what they could do to help someone else; whether it be a family member, a teacher, a classmate, etc.
The children then pulled their drawing into the ChatterPix Kids app. This is a super-easy app that allows the user to record short narration, add text/stickers, and save to the camera roll. The students drew a “mouth” on their dot and recorded how they would help others. Each video was air dropped to the teacher iPad where all were combined to create a class video in iMovie.
This was a fun way to help the students practice their creativity on International Dot Day!
Links to the Class Videos:
Mrs. Crumley’s first graders celebrated International Dot Day by going on a dot hunt around campus. Before leaving the room, we discussed how they could find “dots” everywhere. The first reply to that was, “Are they paper? Can we collect them?” Of course, that led to a discussion of what might be shaped like a dot. We looked around the room and the children started naming things shaped like circles and spheres – clocks, the letter “O” and so much more!
Then off we went with instructions to let a teacher know when a “dot” was found and we’d photograph them with their discovery. Here’s a peek at what they observed . (Note that many children found the same item, but just try telling a first grader that we already have a picture of that!☺)
I love International Dot Day! September 15ish is the day to celebrate Peter H. Reynold’s wonderful book, The Dot. In the book, Vashti is asked to draw a picture in art class but can’t think of anything to illustrate. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti jabs the paper with her pencil to create a tiny dot but the next time she comes to class, she discovers her teacher has framed it. From there, Vashti determines that she really can make better dots! At the end of the book, Vashti pays forward what her teacher has done for her by encouraging a little boy who believes he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. This book has two wonderful themes:
- Every person is creative in their own special way.
- Each of us can find a way to “make our mark” by helping and encouraging others.
This year, celebrating Dot Day was a bit difficult for me. I worked part-time till Sept. 15 due to back surgery over the summer. But I had a wonderful sub, Jane Cooper, who worked tirelessly with many classes to start our Dot Day celebrations. I returned full-time on September 15 to continue the activities – by the end of the day I was completely exhausted but it was a fantastic day to return! Below are descriptions of how our teachers and students “made our mark.”
Our kinder teachers gave each student a dot and a “swirly gold framed” paper. The students created a picture from their dot.
Click here for more pictures from kindergarten.
The first graders had a two-part lesson. Mrs. Cooper introduced the students to making their creative mark by reading The Dot. The children were then given the dot coloring sheet for use with the ColAR app (free in the App Store and Google Play). Lots of colorful illustrations were made as the students were told that the following week they would see something magic happen to their dots. When the first graders returned to the lab, I showed them how to use the ColAR app. Amazed “oohs” and “aahs” were heard as my dot became 3-dimensional! The students were thrilled to see their own dots come to life.
Mrs. Cooper worked with the second graders to create a dot using the Drawing Box app. She explained to the students that, just as people are unique, their dots would be different from their classmates. But, when joined together, they would create a tapestry of colors. The children discussed how they were individuals but each unique person was needed to make a successful group – just as each dot they drew was important to the overall tapestry.
I asked the third graders to combine their creativity and a desire to “make a mark” on others by illustrating a picture in Microsoft’s Paint program. The students were asked to think about how they could make a difference – in a person’s life (a classmate, family member, friend . . .), by doing a task to help their community, or thinking about something they could do in the future. The students wrote a short description then illustrated their idea. I combined their thoughts and drawings in Animoto videos
Because of time constraints, I was only able to work with two of our three fourth grade classes (the third class participated in Dot Day in Spanish).
In one class, I asked the students to create a PowerPoint slide that included their name written in Braille and clip art that represented some of their interests. The students used the Braille Bug website to convert their name to Braille. They then used the shape tool and duplicate shortcut to create dots to form their Braille name. After adding clip art, I asked the students to save their slide as a jpeg (at this point I hadn’t decided how we would share their work). I ended up creating one slideshow with their images.
What a fun time celebrating International Dot Day in Spanish classes!
Sra. Ross had her first and second graders “making their mark” as they discussed how life is like a mirror.
The children designed their mirrors to “mirror” themselves – favorite colors and designs. Some students used colors of sports teams they follow. I love that there is even “etching” in the mirror portion.
In Costa Rica, the traditional oxcart or carreta is the country’s most famous type of craft. (Visit Oxherding and Oxcart Traditions to learn more.) The tradition of decorating oxcarts started in the early 20th century. The carts are designed to symbolize things that are important to the owner.
Keeping with the theme, the students decorated their carts to represent something special to them.
I love how our Spanish teachers joined in the celebrations of Día Internacional Dot! Their choice of activities was a perfect way for students to “make their mark” to “see where it would take them.”
Our Dot Day celebrations spanned several days and then it took me a bit longer to pull everything together but here’s a look at the students’ creativity.
After brainstorming what a dot could become, the children were given a “swirly gold frame” from Fablevision’s Dot Day Handbook and a dot sticker to make their own creation.
First graders decorated their dot by using the sheet from the ColAR website. ColAR Mix is an augmented reality coloring book app that brings images to life! Dot Day Fun! Watch Your Dot Come to Life describes what special things happen to a dot when viewed through this app. Talk about oohs and ahhs from students! What I found amusing was watching the teachers getting just as involved as the children!
Second grade took this activity a step further. After discussing that, yes, even young children can make a difference in other people’s lives, we brainstormed how this could happen. The students wrote their thoughts on their dot then decorated with crayons and markers. Then the fun began with the ColAR Mix app.
After talking about how Vashti’s teacher made a difference in her life and then how Vashti guided a little boy to “make his mark,” the third graders were challenged to illustrate how they could make a difference in someone’s life. Students used the Microsoft Paint program to create their pictures. Since not all students wrote how they would make a difference, what they were thinking might not be readily observed but all had something in mind. We had a fabulous discussion about how even the little things you do are important! Here is a look at what they drew.
By the time the students came to me, they had either read The Dot or had watched a video of it but that didn’t mean they didn’t want to hear it again! And, when the students found out that I also had Peter Reynold’s Ish and Sky Color, we couldn’t even begin the activity until I had read BOTH books! The students decided they just wanted to create. Some created images from a dot while others made some type of “ish” picture. Then I decided to let them experiment with the ColAR Mix app. They weren’t as “wowed” as the younger children but they did enjoy doing a walk-around to see what their classmates had created.
Another Dot Day has passed but the creativity will continue!
Judy Holloway, our music teacher, celebrated International Dot Day by having students write “dot” music. They wrote musical patterns on a staff and shared with their classmates.
Mrs. Weth’s third grade class decided to write a song to be performed. Some children played instruments while others danced to the music. What fun!