Digital Directed Draw: Pumpkin

 In celebration of Fall, Halloween, and harvest festivals, here's a digital directed draw that you can do with students using Google Drawing. If you've never done a digital directed draw with students, it's a fun way to introduce Google Drawing and various tips and tricks to students.  Most everything you can do in Drawing you can also do in Slides and Docs. Whenever I do Digital Directed Draws with students, I start by showing them a model of what we are going to create and explain that the objective is not to create, in this case, a pumpkin that looks exactly like mine but make it your own. I tell students that I'm going to make a very traditional pumpkin that's orange but if they want to make a purple pumpkin, that's great! This little pep talk ensures that you have individual creations through the classroom for maximum creativity.

3 Months of Daily Drawing

31 Days of July Pattern Motifs
As July comes to an end it marks 3 months of daily drawing exercises. So far, it's been a remarkable experience and has transformed into a daily habit that provides a much-needed creative break. The focus in July has been on pattern motifs using watercolor brush pens on index cards. I love the versatility of these pens as well as the ease of using index cards that can double as post cards. I plan on using these techniques to create personalized thank you cards in the future.

Not only has the daily drawing practice provided a great diversion, I've found that it also promotes creativity and flexibility in my drawing. Recently, I got my first iPad and have been experimenting with digital sketchnotes. So far, the jury is out as to whether or not I prefer the digital medium over pen and paper when capturing my thinking visually, especially during live events. One thing I know for sure is that incorporating a daily drawing practice has expanded my visual vocabulary. It has helped me become more fluid in my drawing and designs, both analog and digital. And it's fun and relaxing!

The daily challenge for August focuses on Art Journaling which I know nothing about...yet. With school starting back up again soon, I am looking forward to 31 days filled with opportunities to learn and create each and every day.

1 Month of Daily Drawing

Today I completed 31 days of daily drawing with the help of the Daily Drawing Challenge: Tracing Shadows course offered by Creative Bug. I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon this endeavor and found this creative outlet and community. As the end of the school year wraps up, it is easy to get wrapped up in "busy" and lose oneself. Instead, I feel like I found myself in sketchbooks, watercolors, brushes, and other mediums. Creating has become my daily meditation practice that I look forward to each day. I look forward to the anticipation of what and how I will create something new. Each brush stroke and line drawing is an opportunity to learn something. There are no mistakes just opportunities. For example, in today's drawing, after completing a number of different shadow drawings, I chose to paint three of the flowers. Each flower looks radically different. Why? Because I tried something, got feedback, and tried something different. (I don't recommend painting over watercolor pens. It works much better to use the water color pen over paint.) 

As we move into the final days of school, that's what I wish for our classrooms, teachers, and students. The opportunity to create, try something new, get feedback, apply and repeat. Thirty-one days of daily drawing using mediums and techniques that were previously foreign to me has only solidified the importance of taking risks. Sometimes risks will be with bold brush strokes and sometimes they will be done with a 0.1 sketch pen. 

Another challenge begins tomorrow for the month of June. This time it's 30 days of painting. You can follow my creative journey so far on Instagram.

Week 3 of Daily Drawing

Day 15 - Thimbles #cbdrawaday Watercolor and Graphite flowerpots composition
The theme for daily drawing this week was definitely forgiving flexibility. I have learned to be more flexible with my time, materials, compositions and be ok with that. This week I experienced an unfortunate bout of food poisoning that incapacitated me for a good 36 hours. There was one day I didn't draw. That's ok. The next day, I drew twice. The morning where the subject was glass, I got up early to draw before going to work only to realize that I have incredibly boring glassware when it comes to casting shadows. Rather than wait until an evening trip to the dollar store for a more interesting shadow-casting glass, I found the most interesting glass I own which is a See Jane Run Half Marathon finisher champagne flute, circa 2012 and was quite pleased with the bridge rendition. If I hadn't been flexible with this solution, I would never have created this. Now I know to be on the lookout for glassware that casts interesting shadows to try this again. The list goes one this week with the flexible decisions, from no doll dress to a short search for a pinecone.

Day 16 - Glass #cbdrawaday Graphite Champagne Flute Shadow DrawingThis is what I appreciate about this creative practice is that over time it promotes playfulness and flexibility. My favorite composition this week was using the thimbles. My final creation looked nothing like the model provided. I did the model provided which became a draft (shown below). During this process, the upright thimble looked way more interesting upside down and the stamping pattern made by the top was more intriguing than the circles. Put them together, and no longer were they thimbles but rather re-imagined flowerpots.

Day 15 - Thimbles #cbdrawaday Draft Watercolors and Graphite
It supposedly takes 21 days to create a new habit. I believe this. Even though there are only 10 days remaining for this shadow drawing challenge, I see no stopping ahead. I may not be shadow drawing every day in June but I look forward to continuing a daily creative practice. Besides the forgiving flexibility, the increased observational skills, and calmness it brings me great joy and energy to learn and create something new each day.

You can check out all my daily drawings on Instagram.

Week 2 of Daily Drawing

My daily drawing journey continues with the help of #cbdrawaday. Day 14 was my favorite so far. The subject was thistle. Not something typically found around the house. So I packed up the sketchbook, watercolors, and other supplies in a backpack and hit the trail in search of thistle. What I noticed is that while I was looking for thistle, I was looking at everything with a more discriminating eye. The shapes of the clouds, the textures of the plants, the colors on the trail were richer and more vibrant. There was an abundance of thistle along the trails and I had the opportunity to be selective by noticing the different colors, the varying states of blossoming, and even the appearance of the thistles on the stem. Once my thistle subjects were selected it was an experience to create outside. Today was a sunny day with a blue sky filled with stratocumulus clouds. This became an interesting challenge when the shadows would disappear and reappear while completing the shadow drawing. It affirmed that the shadow is not absolutely necessary. The shadows merely provide a guide and once on the path, I can forge ahead even with the path isn't clear.  That is what I appreciate so far about this practice. Not only does it provide a meditative outlet and focus, it parallels life in so many ways. In this instance with the thistle, something unapproachable at first glance is transformed into something beautiful just by taking a closer look.

Below are a few of my favorites from the week. You can see all of the daily draws on Instagram.

  • Day 11 provided an opportunity to explore different lines, shapes and angles by shadow drawing toy cars. 

  • The subject for Day 10 was marbles and was another chance to play with watercolors.  Still learning so much about this watercolor medium and techniques through ongoing practice. I am loving working with watercolors. So much freedom and versatility.

  • Day 8 used faux flowers, in this case poppies, and watercolors as the source of shadows. This exercise allowed playing with layering of colors to generate texture and different gradations. 

Week 1 of Daily Drawing

For the last week, I've begun a creative practice by participating in #cbdrawaday offered by CreativeBug. The month of May is focused on shadow drawing which is a technique I have never done. The technique is surprisingly simple but tricky. It is essentially tracing but one is tracing shadows that are self-generated based on where you choose to position an object between your sketchbook and lightsource.

Day 1 was forks. Still obsessed with lettering, I chose to create them with letters after I had outlined them in pencil.

Day 2 suggested watercolors as a medium and clothespins as the object. I haven't used watercolors in ages but thankfully in my teacher supply stash I found a set of watercolors to use. I have forgotten how liberating watercolors are to use. There is something about the commitment of paint to paper combined with the softness of the medium that provides freedom to create.

Day 3 was suggested graphite as a medium and pitchers as an object. I've never used graphite before, with the exception of a #2 pencil and still don't really understand the difference between all the letters. It has something to do with soft and hard and leaves something to be learned in a future class. Still obsessed with watercolors, I used them as the background in a sketchbook that isn't intended for watercolors. Oops. Lesson learned.

Day 4 was scissors. What educator doesn't have a ton of school safety scissors laying around? This lesson introduced me to cross-hatching which provided the texture to the handles.

Day 5 was mini-trees with a mixture of graphite and watercolors. On a trip to my local Michael's to buy a bottle brush tree, I chose to buy a broader range of watercolors. What a difference between the standard school watercolor package and artist quality watercolors. The colors are so much more vibrant and it's even easier to use. Personally, I think this was a much better use of bottle brush trees than placing them on the dreaded 4th grade mission project.

Day 6 was mini-trophies and recommended water soluble graphite. The graphite I bought earlier in the week wasn't water soluble and given my recent fascination with watercolors, I needed to give these a try. Wow! Just Wow! I can't wait to play with these more.

Day 7 was leaves and didn't require a trip to the local art store. A line drawing done with a pen on hand and some colored pencils sufficed.

One week into this challenge, I appreciate the daily creative outlet. The variety in objects and mediums keeps things interesting. After a long day, I look forward to unplugging and experimenting and taking risks to create something new. It's a daily meditative exercise for the creative self. What will I learn over the next 24 days?

Playing with Fonts & Lettering

I found my next creative project. On a errand to purchase a new sketchbook since my last one is filled, I stumbled across the book, Creative Lettering: Techniques & Tips from Top Artists by Jenny Doh. This book is a vision of beauty and inspiration. So much can be communicated via text done creatively. Hence, my new creative project. I want to up my text representation skills through creative lettering. Armed with a new sketchbook and inspiration, these are my first two creations. One was inspired by the amazing Brad Montague keynote at #CUE16 in the words of Kid President, "Be More Awesome."
The second is just a chance to play with framing words. I look forward to playing with more fonts and lettering as I fill my new sketchbook.

Mindfulness Practices for Self-Care

Day 5 of #AprilBlogaDay asks "How do you pace yourself throughout the week? What rituals of self-care do you have that make the school year a little easier to manage?" Reflecting on this prompt, rituals did not immediately come to mind. Then, I found this article, "The Biology of Positive Habits" that describes how our brains are predisposed evolutionary with a "negativity bias."1 Those in education recognize the neuroplasticity of the brain in our daily work with students. The authors maintain that by approaching our work with mindfulness, we can train our brains towards positivity and suggests 5 Mindfulness Exercises.

5 Mindfulness Practices Sketchnote

Previously, I described my sketchnoting as a mindfulness practice. But it's not a ritual for me. Three of my last five daily blog posts have contained a sketchnote and the process reminds me how the practice provides focus and calm in the midst of daily stressors. As I think about the other five recommendations, there is much room for improvement in incorporating daily exercise as a form of self-care. There is definitely a need to develop more rituals for self-care and during this process, I need to remember #5. Creating new habits take time. Be kind to myself and keep going.

1"The Biology of Positive Habits | Harvard Graduate School of ..." 2016. 5 Apr. 2016 <>

Approaches to Teaching Reading

3 Fresh Approaches to Teaching Reading sketchnote
Today I came across the article, "3 Fresh Approaches to Teaching Reading," by Doug Lemov published on Lemov presents Independent Reading, Students Reading Aloud, and Reading Aloud to Students as the three approaches. He describes the benefits of each approach and outlines limitations of each approach in isolation.  In the end, Lemov suggests the importance of balance. Each approach offers a critical component to students development as readers and the full benefit is only achieved with a strategic and thoughtful balanced blend of each.

The use of fresh in the title is both sad and hopeful. It's sad because when I began my teaching career this approach was common practice in classrooms and we moved so far away from balance during the NCLB-era. There is a generation of students who missed opportunities to curl up with a great book, listen to each other and their teacher read aloud on a daily basis.  At the same time, it's hopeful that these approaches are considered fresh again for the next generation of readers.

Advice to First Year Me

Day 3 of #AprilBlogaDay asks for Advice to a first year me. I answered a similar prompt last year and my answer was "Be You." I think this answer is still relevant today. Once I was my authentic self in the classroom as opposed to playing a "perceived" teacher role my first year changed dramatically.

Today, I would add to this advice that relationships matter. Take the time to build relationships with your students, your teacher colleagues, and other staff. My first year me started so focused on creating the best, possible lesson by focusing on the technical details and content, that I completely forgot who and where I was teaching. Ultimately we teach kids and work with people. That must always be our first priority. Teaching can be tremendously lonely within the four walls of a classroom if we choose not to focus on relationships.  In today's connected world, there really is no excuse for not connected with others as professionals.  That doesn't mean that every teacher should be on Twitter or have a blog or some other absolute, but rather that every educator must work to build relationships in a manner that is authentic to them.

Digital Decimal Place Value Tiles

As a follow-up to my previous blog post on digital place value discs, these are the companions to use for modeling decimal numbers. Included in the shared Google Drive folder below are decimal tiles for tenths, hundredths, and thousandths that were created using Google Drawing. Decimal tiles are purposefully square to differentiate from whole number place value discs. Also included in this folder is a Google Drawing Place Value Mat and a Google Slides File that is ready to be used as an interactive place value mat.

5 Instant Creativity Boosters

Yesterday, I came across the following article by Jessica Stillman entitled, "More Ideas in Minutes: 5 Instant Creativity Boosters," published on The first suggestion was to Doodle. It's been a while since I've done any sketchnoting and needing a creativity boost after a long work week, this article provided the perfect topic for a sketchnote. I have the weekend to try out recommendations 2, 3, and 5.

Digital Place Value Discs

Place value discs are great math manipulatives. As a Special Day Class teacher, my older students required the concrete nature of math manipulatives but shied away from base-ten blocks as those were "babyish" in their eyes. Enter place value discs. These provide a great representational bridge from concrete to abstract concepts. Students can model numbers, processes, touch them and use for counting. Purchasing them was beyond my teacher budget which always prefers free. So I made them on paper and laminated them for reuse. They stored quite nicely in medication containers for easy distribution, use, and clean-up.

But what about using them digitally? Using a combination of Google Drawing and Google Slides, it's possible to create a digital version of place value discs with a place value mat for modeling numbers digitally. I recently shared this as an example of something that can be done with slides that isn't a presentation at #cue16 and was surprised by the overwhelming response and interest that I have gotten regarding these.

So, here's my Google Drive folder with whole number place value discs I created using Google Drawing along with a Place Value Template to get you started. Look for future posts with more math templates, place value tiles, and directions on how to create your own!

Digital Directed Draw: Easter Basket

In the spirit of the upcoming Easter holiday, here's a new digital directed draw task to get started using Google Drawing. Students can design and create their very own Easter basket. Zero calories is an added benefit of these baskets!

Here's the steps.

1. Create the basket shape using the can tool.

2. Use the oval tool to create an overlay that can be filled in green for the grass.

3. Use the cloud tool to create the overflowing grass around your basket. You can duplicate the grass by holding down the control (PC/Chromebook) or Option (Mac) key and clicking and dragging to duplicate.

4. To create the handle, I used the arrow tool and adjusted the point of the arrow to almost completely eliminate it. By making the line transparent you can eliminate the remaining visible line.

5. Use the oval tool to create your eggs of various sizes and decorations. Duplicate and rotate eggs to change orientation and fill with different colors. Tip: Shift + Rotate will rotate object 15 degrees at a time.

6. Use the scribble tool to create some more authentic looking grass to add to your basket.

7. Use the arrange tool to arrange your eggs and grass as desired by selecting object > Arrange > Choosing various options. Repeat as needed.

8. Customize your basket by adding texture to the basket. Create a bow on the handle. Create a chocolate bunny. Add background landscape to your drawing. Or ??? Let your imagination guide you.

Capturing Live Sketchnotes

Sketchbook position during
my 1st capture.
Recently I captured two sketchnotes live at the Roseville GAFE Summit. Here's what I learned.

1) Page Orientation matters. Typically, I sketch landscape. During the first capture, my sketchbook was positioned portrait but I still sketched landscape. I have no reasonable explanation for this choice and it made for some awkward writing as I reach the "top" of the page. Note the slant and progressively less-readable text as you move up the page.

2) Comfort matters. The keynotes were in a theater setting and I needed a tabletop to set up my sketchbook, Mac, and IPEVO USB camera. The tech guys graciously shared the sound booth with me. However, the sound booth isn't really designed for tabletop use. The seats and chairs are elevated so technicians have a bird's eye view of the entire theater while also having access to their sound equipment. The elevation takes one further from the table top which meant I was alternatively kneeling or standing during my first attempt which wasn't ideal especially for almost an hour! The second attempt, there was a lower chair that made such a difference! Now I could sit and focus on sketching.

View from the Sound booth before the Closing Keynote.
Sketchnote Capture #2 Setup. Note the Landscape Orientation (Lesson Learned!) and the use of random bag items to
increase the height of the Document Camera.

3) Audio matters. The raw footage of both sketchnote captures have poor audio quality. I was hoping to use some snippets of the captures with audio during future trainings as an example of "I hear this and this is how it is translated on the page" but that is not possible yet. I could rely on captions of the footage for this purpose but don't think it would achieve the desired effect. Next time, rather than the internal microphone see what happens with a quality external microphone.

Here's the Final Products along with their one-minute time lapse videos.

Sketchnote #1 Capture. 

Sketchnote Capture #2

Sketchnoting. Take 2.

Today was a first. It marked the first time I had the opportunity to sketch the same keynote address again.

Teaching to the Human Core Solano GAFE Summit Sketchnote
Teaching to the Human Core, 11/15/15, Solano GAFE Summit
In November, at the Solano GAFE Summit, I had the opportunity to sketchnote Roni Habib's keynote on Teaching to the Human Core. Besides the sketchnote shown here, it was also captured via stop motion animation.  Fast forward to February with a similar keynote address and final product that looked quite different.

Teaching to the Human Core Roseville GAFE Summit
Teaching to the Human Core, 2/6/16, Roseville GAFE Summit
Why the difference? It's about learning and growth. The first sketchnote represented an attempt to capture ALL the information. The result was a very crowded page. Even though the recording heightened awareness of the individual choices I was making, the big picture was lost. That's reflected in the completed sketchnote.

Today, I prepped my page by giving myself a "container" of sorts that restricted the space available for my notes. This constraint ended up making the process more metacognitive as well but with the big picture in mind as opposed to individual choices. Now, armed with background knowledge about the topic as well as self-imposed space constraint, it forced more mindful choices of what to include that would enhance and support the theme and message.

 It's like re-reading a great book. Each time you experience the text, you learn something new not only about the content but about yourself. Any text that can accomplish this fulfills the criteria of a great book. I believe this criteria can be extended to keynotes such as this. If I have the opportunity to be present at this keynote again, I look forward to learning even more.

One Word 2016

For 2016, my one word is pursuit. There are two common definitions for pursuit: (1) the act of pursuing and (2) an activity done for pleasure.

The visualization of the act of pursuing focuses on the journey. It's one thing to have vision and a goal but the heart of the matter is the pursuit towards that goal. There will be obstacles, setbacks, and triumphs along the way. Rather than focusing merely on the end goal, I want to be more mindful of the pursuit. The process. The journey. This is where the learning occurs and happens along the way.

Besides the act of pursuing, the definition also includes activities done for enjoyment which speaks to my larger goal of balance. In 2016 I want to focus more on things outside of work that bring enjoyment. Creating, reading, sketching, and running were all things that were limited or either non-existent in 2015. I look forward to the pursuit of these activities and enjoying the journey.