Archives For Making Thinking Visible

We all have an obligation to undertake this inquiry to better understand our individual identities and our collective identity as Canadians sharing this land.
These materials and ideas are part of this journey.
May we find joy in this journey. May our youngest students see vibrant communities and strong people first, before they are introduced to the darker sides of our Canadian history that we must all face if we are to reconcile and make peace with the past.

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**Updated January 4 2017 with information about and seeing more Miro art.**

This blog post includes a 5 minute video, a lesson plan and examples of student that show integration of visual art curriculum and Computational Thinking in my grade 3 classroom.

Thank you to Bea Leiderman, Carolyn Skibba, Douglas Kian and my experience at the Apple Institute in Berlin for this idea.  Using Keynote and Kandinsky is Bea’s idea. It’s brilliant. Bea, Carolyn and I went to the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin where we saw Kandinsky’s work. We also had in depth workshops on Keynote. The combination of these experiences at the Apple Institute in Berlin lead to this idea and a project. Bea, Douglas and I are currently working on a project where we are investigating how these ideas of art, coding, and Computational Thinking might fit together. This is the early stage of this team project.

This video gives an overview of the lesson and a chance to peak inside my grade 3 classroom:

Visual Arts Expectations

These are the expectations from the Ontario Arts Curriculum that apply to this lesson:

Elements of Design:

• line: variety of line (e.g., thick, thin, dotted)

• shape and form: composite shapes; symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes and forms in both the human-made environment and the natural world

Principles of Design:

• variety: slight variations on a major theme; strong contrasts (e.g., use of different lines, shapes, values, and colours to create interest)

Creating and Presenting:

D1.1 create two- and three-dimensional works of art that express personal feelings and ideas inspired by the environment or that have the community as their subject

D1.2 demonstrate an understanding of compo – sition, using principles of design to create narrative art works or art works on a theme or topic

D1.4 use a variety of materials, tools, and techniques to respond to design challenges

Reflecting Responding and Analysing:

D2.2 explain how elements and principles of design are used to communicate meaning or understanding in their own and others’ art work

Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts:

D3.2 demonstrate an awareness of a variety of works of art and artistic traditions from diverse communities, times, and places

Computational Thinking Goals

Karen Brennan and Mitch Resnick published a paper in 2012 describing a framework for teaching and assessing Computational Thinking (CT). I learned about this paper from a presentation by Julie Mueller at a CT event for teachers in August 2016.  Based on this framework, these are the CT goals of this lesson:

Coding Concepts (actual computer science concepts): Sequencing and Debugging.

Practices (thinking habits): Being incremental and iterative, testing and debugging, reusing and remixing.

Perspective (beliefs about self): Using technology to express oneself.



Source: Wassily Kandinsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Source: The Smile of the Flamboyant Wings, 1953 by Joan Miro

For more information on Joan Miro, check out this site here. Thank you Louise L. for letting me know about this site.The page I have linked “provides visitors with Miró’s bio, over 400 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Miró exhibition listings. The page also includes related artists and categories, allowing viewers to discover art beyond our Miró page.”  The rest of is very much worth looking at also.

Teacher Prior Knowledge/Experience:

Student Prior Knowledge/Experience:

  • Time to play with Keynote

Lesson Part 1:

Bell-work and Minds On:

As students enter the classroom, give them the option of taking either a Miro or Kandinsky colouring sheet. While the students settle and the teacher takes attendance, students colour the colouring sheets anyway they like.

Introducing the Project and Meeting Miro and Kandinsky:

Introduce the project by showing an example. This was created by Bea:

Next, show examples of Kandinsky and Miro works. Ideally show the same art work as the colouring pages and several more.


Explain how the art is abstract. Show how the example has movement that happens with just a single click.

Go over the success criteria:


Teach Art Concepts:

Have students compare their colouring pages to the actual artists’ works. Notice the main differences. Miro uses curved lines and primary colours whereas Kandinsky uses many different colours but has more geometric shapes and straight lines.

Teach Coding Concepts:

Introduce the coding concepts of sequence and debugging.

Working On It:

Now it’s up to students to create their own Kandinsky or Miro style art, or a mixture of both.  You should model how to find shapes, lines, and how to add animation. There are two ways to animate and they are shown in the screenshots below.

First, tap on the More button (…) and then select “Transitions and Builds.”

Or, tap on the object you want to animate and tap on “Animate.”


Warning: Many students will figure out how to add the animations but won’t be able to link them together.   I skip telling them this step so they are confronted with having to problem solve and debug.  Once they have a need for this information, I show them how, though many figured it out on their own.  The screenshot below shows how to link the animation. To sequence the animation tap on the object, then tap Animate, then tap the heading to get the options you see in the screenshot.  Notice that you have to change “Start Build” from “On Tap” to “With Previous Build” or “After Previous Build.”img_0486

Once students have completed their projects ask them to share the Keynote files with you.  You could do this by using Airdrop or having them save the Keynote file to Google Drive.

This is the end of the first part of the lesson. Now you will need some time to convert those Keynote files on your Mac to mP4. This part was time consuming.  I wish I could export keynote files to iMovie on iPad. But, at this point you can only send a copy As Keynote, PDF, or PowerPoint.

Teacher’s Homework Prior to Part 2:

This part is not fun.

  1. Open each file in Keynote on a Mac and export the file as a Quicktime. (File>Export To>QuickTime…)
  2. Then, open each file in iMovie and export as MP4.
  3. Share these files with students. I used Google Drive.

Lesson Part 2:

Bell-work and Housekeeping:

Give students instructions to retrieve the MP4 file you created with the Keynote files.  Ask students to open the file in iMovie. Review the success criteria.

Teach Art Concepts ~ Reflection:

Students use iMovie to create a voice over audio recording explaining why Miro or Kandinsky would like their art work.  Review the key elements and principles of design for each artist. Give students time to do their reflection and upload videos to Seesaw.

Teach Coding Concepts:

When students are finished uploading their art reflection, have students use Apple Swift Playgrounds Learn to Code 1 to reinforce coding concepts. Have students work on the Command puzzles.

Examples of Student Work:

Here are examples of the animations prior to students adding reflections.

Here are examples including the reflection:


Skating Covent Garden London

Today Shannon Robb and I co-taught to kick off a new unit in Social Studies.  Through the picture above we were hoping to provoke students to think about aspects of daily life including:

  • Recreation
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Role of Children
  • Work
  • Religion and Spiritual Practices



We used a visible thinking strategy: I see, I think, I wonder.  Or, if you’re really fancy: I observe, I infer, I wonder.  The students wonderings are recording on this table below.

Student Number Wondering
20 I wonder if they are skating?
15 I wonder if they person with the white jacket was teaching the other guy.
8 I wonder if there is a restaurant?
19 I wonder if it’s London, Ontario
17 I wonder if it’s in London?
6 I wonder if it is Christmas time?
12 I wonder if the Christmas lights are in downtown London?
23 I wonder why there is snow.
14 I wonder if the snow hasn’t melted yet.
2 I wonder if it’s cold.
18 I wonder why they are skating.
5 I wonder if it’s fun to go skating there.
13 I wonder if it is a mall or something else.
9 I wonder if they are having fun?
10 I wonder if you can learn to skate there.
7 I wonder if I’ll know what’s the tallest building?
11 I wonder what the big A is for (The sign with the big A).
22 I wonder what is inside the buildings.
3 I wonder what the building in the background are for.
21 Absent.

We are going to keep track of the students wonderings and see how we can get our students to think more deeply over time.  Here are the themes that emerged from this first attempt.  Students wondered about:

Skating and Recreation/Fun  (N = 5)

Location (N = 2)

Celebrations, Religious and Spiritual Practices (N = 1)

Housing & Work (Infrastructure/services/buildings) (N=6)

As you can see by the themes that are in bold, some items from our list did come up.

Our next steps are to work with students using a shared inquiry model to focus on Religious and Spiritual practices in our daily lives. Shannon and I are leading with this one because we felt it was the most challenging and potentially would put students in an uncomfortable position of feeling as though they had to be ambassadors for their religions.  We want to facilitate sharing and students being able to see and learn from one another.  We decided to lead this one to ensure many voices are heard, model inclusion, empathy and appreciating different points of view. This will serve us well when students form inquiry circles to study the other aspects of daily life in the present day. We will guide the students to live like researchers and consider many different perspectives and points of view. They will also have to engage in social studies research methods to confirm or disprove what they think they know on various topics. This different forms of thinking and research will include: looking at artifacts, interviewing, studying pictures and other more traditional means of research including web search.


Visual Literacy people, visual literacy.

Big Idea:

In the Language Arts curriculum, revised in 2006, language is broken down into four strands: reading, writing, oral communication and media literacy.  Media literacy is often interpreted by many teachers as making posters, watching Bookflix, making advertisements and watching the movie version of a classic book read in class.  If I could rewrite the curriculum, I would de-emphasize the poster and ad side of media literacy and re-emphasize teaching conventions and techniques of media, students creating media and students deconstruction/reflecting on media. I really wish every single student in Ontario had an iPad because it is much easier to construct and deconstruct media with this tool. But, since that feels like a moonshot dream, why can’t each student have a digital camera?  I think students need to be taking photos and video and working with images.  I think it’s hard for students to deconstruct and understand images if they do not have opportunities to construct their own images.

What I am doing:

Dragon Balling, that’s what I am doing!  Dragon balling is more commonly called hadoukening and is an Internet meme.  Here are some highlights:

Now, check out Carolyn Skibba and I dragon balling at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Austin, Texas this July.  I think it is important and interesting that the photograph creates a fictional moment for the viewer.  Here Carolyn is zapping me and I am flying backwards.  In reality, Carolyn is just looking fierce while pointing at me and I am jumping up and piking in a ‘c’ shape.  The sum of these parts and actions is a story, a fictional super power moment.  I presented this photo to my students and challenged them to go forth and dragon ball!

Carolyn zapping Michelle!

This is one of the activities we are doing in my class this week with my grade 3 and 4s.  I asked students to create their own dragon balling photos in groups of three.  Through the process, students are learning a tremendous amount about how pictures are stories that we create. Students had to stage a shot, make several attempts, think about light, hold the pose, and work together.

Kids take the shots, kids star in the pictures and we begin to develop a much deeper understanding of visual literacy.  We begin to see that pictures are stories, or as Bill Frakes says, every picture is a bit of a lie.  It’s something you stage and create. The final product tells a story that is different than what is actually happening in real life.

In my class we are beginning the journey of understanding how the visual world is constructed and how we deconstruct and make sense of our world. We are making our own stories in our dragon balling pictures.  Yes, my students are 8 to 10 years old, and yes they are capable of starting this journey.

People are taking pictures constantly and we are surrounded by images made by other people.  I think it is increasingly important that we understand the images around us in advertising, information texts, movies, video games, and even in the pictures we all take and share.

The new ABCs

The bottom line is that we have new ABCs to teach: Always Be Capturing. But pointing and shooting a thousand selfies is not making our kids more savvy tech users nor is it making our kids happy and well adjusted.  We need mindful capturing and story telling.  We need story telling that ranges from creating a playful meme all the way to capturing compelling stories of our times.