Dot Looms

Standard Met: McREL Visual Arts Standard 1 (Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts)

What You Need: Heavy paper plates, yarn in different colors, beads, Wassily Kandinsky’s Color Study: Squares With Concentric Circles

What to Do: International Dot Day is a yearly celebration of self-expression—inspired by The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, the story of a young girl whose artistic journey begins with a single dot.

To celebrate, Cassie Stephens, a K–4 art teacher at Johnson Elementary in Franklin, Tennessee, who blogs at In the Art Room, introduces Color Study: Squares With Concentric Circles (which explores the dot theme) to inspire students to paint their own circles on paper plates. After painting their dots, students cut 19 equally spaced notches around the edge of their plate, numbering them 1–19. They tuck the end of their yarn into notch 1 and stretch it across the front of the plate to notch 10, then from 11 to 2, 3 to 12, and so on, forming a pattern like spokes on a bicycle wheel. When there are no empty notches left, students weave the yarn around the center of their looms in a spiral, threading it over and under each “spoke.” Encourage students to get creative, incorporating new colors or threading beads into their pattern.

Braille Eggs

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4

What You Need: Six Dots, by Jen Bryant; egg cartons; plastic eggs; scissors

What to Do: To inspire students to innovate, read Six Dots, the story of Louis Braille, who invented a new form of expression. Talk about why Bryant included so many sound words, like clang and swoosh. Why did she include French words like voilà? Discuss how the illustrations—showing a dark world of outlines—help us understand what Braille’s life was like. Why might he have thought of objects as having outlines instead of colors? To further help students understand Braille’s experience, have them use egg cartons and plastic eggs to write in Braille. (They can bring empty cartons from home; cut each in half to form a two-by-three array—a Braille letter fits within a six-dot template, two across, three down.) Form small groups and have each arrange its cartons in a row lengthwise. One student puts eggs in the cartons to make a word, using the Braille alphabet key in the book (each egg represents a Braille dot). The other group members will decode the word using the Braille alphabet key. For an added challenge, encourage students to cover their eyes and attempt to decode the word by feeling the pattern before consulting the key. Have kids take turns being the Braille writer.

Full Circle

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.2.G.A.3; 3.G.A.2

What You Need: A paper circle for each student (four inches in diameter), crayons or markers, construction paper, scissors, glue

What to Do: Collaboration enhances creativity in this Dot Day project combining art and math. Matthew Winner, an official International Dot Day Ambassador and a K–5 library media specialist at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Maryland, has students start by drawing their own designs on a circle with a four-inch diameter. Next, each student cuts his or her dot in half, then cuts one half in half again (making two quarters). Kids keep half of their circle and trade the quarters with two classmates. They reassemble their dot and glue it to a square of colored paper. When tiled, the squares form what Winner calls a “mural of connections.”

To dial up the difficulty, allow students to cut their second half into two, three, or four equal parts. Have them label each part 1⁄4, 1⁄6, or 1⁄8 and swap with classmates in such a way that the new pieces form a complete dot.

Rhythm and Dots

Standard Met: McREL Music Standard 3 (Improvises melodies, variations, and accompaniments)

What You Need: Audio and a simple score of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” recordings of or links to pop songs, crayons or markers, rulers, pencils

What to Do: Pass out copies of the score of “Ode to Joy.” Have students touch the notes with their fingers as you play the audio. Talk about how each dot stands for one note; the placement on the line tells the pitch, and the tail or appearance of each dot shows how long the note lasts.

Have the class invent three percussion “instruments” using their hands, desks, and school supplies. (Students might use their hands to tap out a rhythm on their desks or they might tap a ruler on the side of a pencil.) Assign each student an instrument and each instrument a color. Display a random string of dots in the three colors. As you point to each dot, students with the corresponding instrument play. After a few practice runs, display a series of dots containing a definite rhythm (such as the drum line to “We Will Rock You”). Next, play an audio file of a popular song. Have students use the three colors to jot down a repeating dot pattern to go with the rhythm of the song. (The patterns don’t have to match the song’s score; the goal is just to represent the percussion line visually in whatever creative way each student chooses.) Invite composers to display their pattern and conduct the class.

Dare to See Differently

Standards Met: NGSS ESS1.A; ESS1.B

What You Need: Starry Messenger, by Peter Sís; paper; masking tape; paint or markers

What to Do: Galileo’s theory that Earth revolved around the sun, instead of the other way around, was so unusual at the time that he was imprisoned for his beliefs. Read Starry Messenger, which is about Galileo, who “looked at the sky and wondered: ‘What if things are not as everybody believes them to be?’” To explore where Galileo’s brave ideas led, assign each student an object from the solar system—a planet, the sun, a moon, an asteroid, etc. Have each research the object to find out: Where is it located? How does it move? What is it made out of? (Try NASA’s website Next, have students make models of their objects by crumpling paper into balls, covering the balls with masking tape, and decorating them. Then, clear a large space in the room. Ask the sun to come to the middle. One at a time, invite students to hold up their object, name and describe it, and step into the place in the “solar system” where it belongs.


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Photo: Courtesy of Cassie Stephens