Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My First Zentangle Class at School

Today, I had the honor and pleasure to be invited to give a Zentangle lesson at a local elementary school by a friend and neighbor who teaches there.  She had taken my very first Zentangle class a few weeks ago and wanted to share it with her fifth graders.  This was the perfect time, as school is winding down and kids are getting antsy to be indoors.

And it went wonderfully well.

My Lesson Plan for Kids' Zentangle 101

Supplies:  kits for kids (pen, pencil, 4 tiles, bookmark), Apprentice letter to parents, easel, easel pad, thick marker, gray marker for shading, black tablecloth, Apprentice video,

I.  Introduction
    A.  Have you ever felt angry, sad, scared, nervous, tired, bored, frustrated?  How did your body feel when you felt those emotions?  
    B.  One of the ways to rest and calm your body and mind is to think about your breathing.  Everyone breathes, you can do it anywhere, without any supplies--if you're tired of waiting in line or scared to go into the doctor's office.  
    C.   Short breath meditation--in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Feel the change in temperature, the breath over your lips, the rise and fall of your chest.
    D.   It's all about paying attention to the moment, going step by step.  "Anything is possible one step at a time."
   E.  Zentangle is a kind of art where you create calm, clear feelings by creating repetitive patterns in beautiful works of art (break down word "Zen"--Japanese meditation-and "tangle"--the pattern of lines.)  It combines art and mindfulness.
   F.  So let's go step-by-step through the steps of Zentangle.
        1.  Gratitude and appreciation
        2.  Corner dots
        3.  Border
        4.  String
        5.  Tangle
        6.   Shade
        7.   Initial and Sign
        8.  Appreciate again

II.  Supplies and jargon--but you don't NEED any of these
     A.  Tile
     B.  Pen (keep it capped between uses)
     C.  Pencil
     D.  Tangle
     E.  String
     F.  Auras
     G.  Sparkle

III.  First tile
      A.  Z string
      B.   Crescent moon (aura)--variations including dots between auras
      C.   Hollibaugh (draw behind), dots/outlines/black in empty spaces (or reverse and do hollibaugh black); draw crescent moon or printemps in spaces or aura space
      D.   Florz (grid)--original has boxes at intersections, but I sometimes do a heart (they drew all manner of shapes)
      E.    Printemps (sparkle)--different sizes, overlapping (draw behind)  (Idea: maybe Flux instead next time)
      F.    Some comments and ideas to touch upon meanwhile:  if you can write "iSCO" you can draw tangles, no eraser = no mistakes (but show them Bronx Cheers), what does a "hollibaugh" look like? (there is no right or real in Zentangle!),  the names of the tangles are generally non-descriptive and are short hand to make it easier to discuss, shade as part of the design (not trying to create consistent internal light source), walk around to encourage and help them, look at tile at arm's length, go your own pace, everyone is different, make it your own, go back to your breath meditation if you get frustrated, borders are made to be crossed , lines don't have to be straight  

IV.  Show Apprentice video 6 of Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas while they complete their tiles and add them to class mosaic  
     A.  Maria and Rick didn't invent patterns, they came up with the list of steps to access meditation through art; the names are non-descriptive to give us a shorthand for talking about the art and to each other
      B.  Look at class mosaic together--all different, all creative and individual--with same instructions!
      C.  Distribute Apprentice letter to parents and announce them all Zentangle Apprentices.
      D.  Now what are some of the feelings you have?  
      E.  You can tap into this feeling, creativity, and beauty whenever you need or want to

  Optional second tile, if time:  triangle-on-log string, with zander, pokeroot, tipple, knightsbridge (or static or flux)

I was there about an hour and they were so focused, curious, and excited.  I even gave them two extra tangles (zander and pokeroot) because they wanted to learn more, even though I had to rush them.  I pointed to the tangled border of their Apprentice letter to parents and said there were so many patterns--they could even make up some!  (If they'd name them after me.)

I was surprised with how hesitant they already were at 10 - 11 years old to make a mistake; most of them admitted being very hesitant when looking at a blank piece of paper and asked to create something.  But once we got the dots, borders, and strings on the tiles, they settled in.  Still, at each step, they wanted reassurance that they weren't "wrong" and that their designs were "good."  Both the teacher and I kept reiterating that there were no mistakes, that they made the creative choices, that different was okay.  They did experiment with their borders--several drew squiggles and loops instead of straight lines--but they were surprised when I crossed the pencil borders and my printemps invaded hollibaugh!  Even still, at the end, a couple of students wouldn't join their tile to the mosaic. 

But they begged the teacher to do more Zentangle patterns; they said they felt good when it was over.  I left the Apprentice DVD with the teacher and two extra tiles for each kid (plus some extra pens in case something broke.)  I told them they could look up Zentangle online and find all kinds of patterns, that they could make greeting cards or pencil cases or whatever they wanted.  The teacher said it was the most focused her class had ever been all year.

Maybe next year, we should offer the lesson in the beginning of the year, and then the teacher can introduce new tangles as they go and the students can add them to projects at Valentine's Day or Mother's Day; they can tangle when they are anxious about a test or done with their work.  I know I would have loved it when I was a student, just like these kids did.