Dyan Branstetter | August 2018
Back to School with International Dot Day
Peter Reynolds’ books are always a favorite for me to use in my classroom. Not only are they fun and whimsical, but they promote creativity, being yourself, and a growth mindset. They are perfect for multiple lessons year-round, but I especially like to incorporate them at the beginning of the year. This helps me create a classroom culture that promotes individuality from the very start.
The first Peter Reynold’s book that I introduce is The Dot. This is the story of a young student who is not confident in her ability to draw. The teacher capitalizes on the strong emotion of the student. She provides just the right amount of firm encouragement for her to “make her mark, and see where it takes her”. This pay-it-forward message not only helped the student work past frustration but her teacher’s unwavering belief in her ability to succeed helped her to explode with creativity. It empowered her to do more than what was expected. It changed her attitude, confidence level, and moreover, I’m willing to bet it changed her life course.
Setting Expectations for the Year
What a message to share with a new group of students; to let them know from the beginning that our expectations are high. To let them know that we have an unlimited amount of confidence that each of them will reach their potential. That we will be right there with them along the way. After reading the story to my students, we discuss the theme and character traits. Some of my students notice this about the teacher, but I explicitly state the message that I get from the teacher in this book and make sure they understand that empowerment is my goal for them. (Behind the scenes throughout the rest of the year, I work to prove this through my actions.)
Celebrating International Dot Day
The story of The Dot inspired International Dot Day, which is September 15th annually. This day was started by teacher Terry Shay in 2009 in the hopes of promoting creativity, bravery, and self-expression based on the themes in the book. Just a quick search of the hashtag #dotday will show classrooms all over the world demonstrating how they have “made their mark” in a unique way through the creation of a dot.
I have used this book and accompanying activities in my Language Arts class to celebration International Dot Day. But this year, it has expanded to a whole school event. Whether you are just beginning to celebrate International Dot Day or you have been celebrating for years, here is a collection of ideas and resources for how to make it your most inspirational celebration yet.
Hosting a School-wide International Dot Day Event
This year, my school is celebrating International Dot Day with an arts-inspired evening event for families. Students will rotate through sessions held throughout the building. Each session is a different art form. Each also follows the loose theme of dots, circles, spinning, and spheres, as well as the theme of the book. The sessions are led by a combination of teachers, community members, as well as parents.
We also have interactive exhibits set up throughout the hallways in the school. This is so students can add to collaborative artwork. Students will be adding their own creative dot to a school-wide mural. Students will think about how they will “make their mark” and then they will add it to a dot to be displayed around the school. There are many more artistic ideas for school-wide displays. Check out Peter Reynolds’ vast library of International Dot Day resources. Sign up to be a part of this global celebration and access his educator’s handbook that is filled with wonderful ideas for participating. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out these Dot Day ideas from Cassie Stephens. We also love these ideas from Scribd. Mrs. Wills’ Kindergarten also has some great ideas, including a Dot Day song! And of course, our friend Tricia Fuglestad always has super fun Dot Day happenings as well.
This type of school-wide celebration could just as easily happen during the school day with classes rotating from teacher to teacher.
The Dot-inspired Sessions That are Happening at Our Event
Dancing to connect the Dots
A local dance teacher will demonstrate how to use the elements of dance (Body, Action, Space, Time, and Energy) to travel from “dot to dot”. We will have vinyl dots on the floor for the teacher to demonstrate and for participants to explore movement from one dot to another.
A local watercolor artist with an affinity for nature will provide scientific drawings of animals and insects with spots. Students will use watercolors to observe and imitate the nature-inspired dots.
Subitizing with Movement and Sound
For this early childhood activity, students will roll a large die. Then, they will touch the floor with that amount of body parts. For example, if the student rolls a four, they could place both feet and both hands on the floor. Musical variation: Provide handheld musical instruments. After the student rolls the die, they should make the number of sounds that are represented on the die. Find more ideas for subitizing here.
Animate Your Dot
Using Peter Reynold’s computer program Fablevision, students will learn simple animation skills by drawing and animating a dot.
Make Your Dot Come Alive
Students will design and draw a dot on the template provided. Then, they will can their dot with the Augmented Reality app Quiver and their dot will become 3D.
Script Writing based on The Dot
A local theater professional will guide students through the process of writing tiny vignettes based on The Dot. Students will learn acting techniques to clearly demonstrate character traits while acting out the vignettes.
Design a Ladybug Habitat
Ladybugs are important to the garden, and they wear their spots well! A local gardener will share ladybug habitat needs. Students will use those guidelines and collected materials to collaboratively design a ladybug habitat for our school garden.
Read the “Dots” to Play an Orff Instrument
Our music teacher will lead students and families through basic music reading skills to play a short song on an Orff instrument.
Read and sing The Dot
There are multiple options for exploring the text of the book. Find the animated video and a sing-along song online.
It’s the Message That Matters
The ideas are endless, really. So reach out to your colleagues! Plan something big, or keep it small and connect online at a global level. What matters is the message. Start your year off right by setting a culture of creativity and empowerment.