When you slow down, you concentrate better. You do better and you have more stamina. It’s like in sports with stamina

-Ahmad, 5th grade

DSC001402nd grade classrooms: Garza and Parker

Adolfo and Cathy were both eager to see their students incorporating descriptive language in their writing. Their work in class included brainstorming different types of adjectives and adverbs and then bringing these into their written work. We decided to start off in this classroom with drawing as a way to describe. Drawing allows you to zoom in and look closely to study and ask questions. This naturally brings good describing language into the conversation.
For these classes, this meant zoomed-in observational drawing of their eyes and of complicated natural materials (flowers, bark, moss, geodes etc.)
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What do you notice when you slow down?

(this has become my favorite and most used provocation question this year)

After our observational drawing focus we switched gears to more abstract descriptive language. We connected body movement, line work (black line pen) and color work (liquid watercolor pencil) with moods found in music. For this, we used music from Camille St Saen’s piece “Carnival of the Animals”.

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How can line describe the stories in a piece of music?
How can color describe the stories in a piece of music?

The second graders are about to begin their unit on traditions. They will be reading stories about different families and their traditions from around the world. Our goal with materials will be to help the students further explore this idea of family or community traditions and what they say about the family or community that holds them.
We will be moving into clay very soon as a way to explore the stories of our own family or community traditions and what they tell us about our own stories.

5th grade classroom: Fuller

For the first couple weeks, I was able to work with small groups of 5th grade students using drawing as a way to think about persistence. With the small groups I was able to really capture some great words from the students.


• What do you notice when you go slowly?

• What do you notice about drawing quickly vs drawing for a long time?

• What strategies help you out really quickly? What strategies help you when you have a longer time to draw?

• What does your brain do when you get stuck? How do you move forward?


Eurydice: I just start with the easiest part, the part I am familiar with, and then I get bigger and look at the rest

Jazmear: I make sure I draw something I know, like mine (a geode), it has an America shape in the middle. I knew that, so I just drew that shape without even looking at it. That way I can be fast.

When I had more time I looked deeper and saw dots and poky parts and then I looked even deeper and saw water. And then I was done but you told me to look deeper, so I found the stripes in the container.

Even in the single minute drawing, Zeynuba had a lot of details.
Kristi: What do you think she did with her brain to get all those details so quickly?
Joffer: She scanned it!
Zeynuba: Yeah, I scan it. I look really quickly at all of the different pieces.
Kristi: Is that something you do in other areas at school?
Zeynuba: In novel study, Miss Fuller asks us to look back at parts of the book we’ve already read and that’s scanning it.

Ahmad: When you slow down, you concentrate better. You do better and you have more stamina. It’s like in sports with stamina….When I’m drawing I just put it in my head and imagine it how I want to be. Like if I’m drawing a dragon, I just imagine what kind of dragon I want to make. 

Oria: I look at the different colors and I imagine. I find where it needs to be lighter and where it needs to be shaded darker. I look over the whole thing at once and make sure it is in my brain and then I get started. 

J’Shaun: I got stuck on the long drawing because I was thinking too hard. When I just drew some circles it was better. I didn’t think about it too hard and just kept going.

From this small group study we moved into a conversation about water color pencils and what they can do. This full group work set the stage for the way we are hoping to continue with our material work for the rest of the year.

big question: We start by presenting a wide open question to the group with some smaller discussion questions in mind.

discussion time : We see where the conversation goes and facilitate the students to respond to each other’s thoughts.

work it out with a material: We take our own thoughts to materials to develop them further.

report back: We save some time to share out our ideas

Our first big question in this format was:

Where do our opinions come from?

Does a person’s personal history change their opinions?

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This ended up being a great conversation.

Our fifth graders are moving into discussions about maps and place based stories. We will be working with clay as well.

6th Grade: Mann

Our sixth graders have been involved in a long conversation and study of hybrid creatures and the idea of two sets of characteristics being involved in a single being.
The students explored their own hybrid creatures using clay and then in March, we spent some time thinking about the characteristics.

We listened to music of Carnival of the Animals to explore how different animals are described with music. Instead of musical composition, we used color mixing as a medium to describe the characteristics of each of our animals. The students continued this conversation about duality with their Poems for Two Voices.

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With the past couple weeks we have done some shorter explorations. Using watercolor pencils in the same big question->discussion->materials->report back format that I describe above. After having read about the Persian Wars and their one sided manner, we asked the questions:

What does fairness look like?
Does fair mean both sides have the same thing?
Is respect the same as fairness?

Amir: If somebody asks you to do something and someone else asks you to do something and you say no to the first persona and do it for the second… That is not fair.

Latisse: If you’ve been waiting and someone raises their hand and they get called on… that isn’t fair… Everybody should be treated the same way with the same respect.

KM: So everybody should get the same thing all the time?

Not all the time!

KM: Tell me more about that. Is there a time when people don’t get the same thing but it is still fair?

Latisse: Like if we ended up with the same amount.

Monica: If you don’t like someone you don’t have to be nice to them but you still have to respect them as a person. That is fair.

KM: What is the difference between respect and fairness?

Janae: Respect is me being mindful of you.

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