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The Beautiful Oops

On Thursday, Meghan and I read two books to our combined classrooms. The Dot by Peter Reynolds is about a girl named Vashti who insists she “just CAN’T draw.” Her teacher encourages her to “make a mark and see where it takes you.” From there, Vashti realizes that the dots she draws are in fact art, and that she just had to get “unstuck” to realize that she CAN draw. The Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is about how you can take something that may have been a mistake (like a rip in your paper or spill) and make it into art. We then did an art project that required students to take an “oops” (a paper with holes or rips) and to transform it into something “beautiful” (whatever they wanted)!

 

While both books focus on art, Meghan and I used the lessons in the book to apply to general attitudes about learning. While reading The Dot, we discussed that saying “I can’t” didn’t get Vashti anywhere. We talked about how her teacher encouraged her to just give it a try and how simply getting started was enough to remind Vashti that she was not only capable, but also talented and creative. We discussed alternatives to saying “I can’t” when faced with something challenging, such as “I can try” or “Can you help me?”

 

While reading The Beautiful Oops, students noticed that even when things don’t go as planned, they can still turn out pretty great. In fact, mistakes can be the beginning of something interesting, amazing, or cool. Case in point – an awesome painting of Swiss cheese that started as holes in a paper.


Overall, the students embraced the “oops” papers they received and found very creative ways to turn them into something beautiful. Our hope is that they are able to apply that skill to future mistakes, challenges, or setbacks along the way.

Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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