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At the school where I taught every student had a sketch/writing journal, different from their writers notebooks. They were used to capture different experiences outside the building, sometimes on field trips to learn more about a topic, often in nature trips for observations. For example, one year each of my students chose a tree to observe during the first days of every month, August to June. Many times my class just moved outside to see what was happening, and to record in sketches and in words. Sometimes the notes led to further art and additional writing, poetry or prose. As educators, we felt that sketching helped slow students' thinking and improved their observation skills. Here are favorite books, old and new, that I recommend as wonderful motivators when observing. Each can be used as a prompt of what to observe, a lesson in how to observe, or a way to capture what was discovered.
Learning to observe and translate one's sketches into paper collages is challenging, but through seeing how Geraldo Valério used materials for "his" birds, attention to the details can result in wonder at the birds' unique qualities.
This time observations and connections are key when one learns how Daniel looks for, and discovers, poems all around a nearby park. Here too discovery is key, and looking for what only oneself "sees" is a revelation when sharing with the rest of the group.
Time for a special place to "hunt" in this book, and a new look at how to gather ideas. Is it brainstorming and putting it all together in a bouquet of things seen, or looking for one special thing that speaks loud to the artist and writer. Here one is called to use all the senses when making notes of the discoveries.
A walk around a neighborhood can make a terrific start to any day. I’ve had students take journals home and walk around their own neighborhood, recording with all the senses. This is a very favorite book of mine, one I've used for myself, taking my own walk and recording.
This indeed is a magical book, asking the reader to look and find the magic in everyday life. In its words, it nearly commands for those in the day-to-day not to miss a thing!
Jane Goodall spent her life observing in the field, and this book tells some of her story and gives examples of Jane’s early journals.
One doesn't stay with realistic observing in this story, but shares about observing, then turning what one sees into something more. As you can see by the cover, it's an exciting tale of what can be.
This book is quite enticing as Lois Ehlert shows both kinds of fish and also the materials that she used to create them. I wonder if a table full of materials can help the artist imagine something out of them, by playing around with different objects, just like playing with words, new objects emerge.
This is a slightly different look at combining art and words because it also introduces the use of primary source creation like newspaper articles. When researching, stories emerge, and putting together one’s own imagined sketches while reporting some topic of research can be both fun and exciting. One can create original-looking news articles online, sketch the action, and tell more of the story in letters and postcards.
There are other books I've used for observations, sketching and writing, but this time I stayed with recently published picture books. I hope you've found one or more of interest.