When I began my career as a first grade classroom teacher, I soon discovered what a transformative year first grade is during a child’s education. I wanted to learn more about cognitive development and how students think. I wanted to better understand what learning is and how to create environments that maximize learning.
I became interested in the use of drawing to facilitate thinking when I was introduced to the work of Marilyn Burns, a mathematics educator. She would often have children use drawing as part of problem solving process. More recently, I’ve been reading about how visual representations of data can inform our thinking. I recently read Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity by David Sibbet. Interestingly, the techniques that Sibbet proposes are similar to ones that I see teachers use with elementary students during literacy activities.
[pullquote align=”right” background=”on”]His drawings aren’t necessarily great representations of food, they are used more like mental maps or flowcharts to visualize the way that he thinks.[/pullquote]The article that I’ve linked to in this post, “The King of Molecular Gastronomy Goes Back to the Drawing Board,” highlights the role that visualization and drawing played in the creative process of Ferran Adrià, chef at elBulli, a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Spain that was known for its experimental approach to dining. So innovative was Adià’s approach that a museum exhibition of his work will begin a run this month (January 2014) at The Drawing Center in New York City.
What does this have to do with education, and specifically learning in an elementary classroom? It’s all about making thinking visible. What are we doing to purposefully and deliberately help students make their thinking visible? What role can drawing play in our students’ development of problem solving skills and pursuit of creativity?