The following article is contributed by Penny Cunninggim, co-founder of NEARI. Peggy will also be speaking at our INSPIRE 2014 conference.
A teacher recently told me about this wonderful multipurpose activity for creating structured patterns that she used as part of student journaling: it is called zentangles. The website she found is: What Do We Do All Day. This activity blew me away. Thank you, Liz!
I think this is the perfect, light, enjoyable, and easy yet creative technique to use with your students of any age as they tackle challenging material or difficult feelings. It is energizing and a self-regulation technique; it can substitute for other calming tools, it supports visual and tactile learning styles; it reinforces midline and visual spatial skills; and it is fosters one-of-a-kind, rich, abstract images the author often can’t believe he or she could make. It brings inspiration and unexpected results.
Zentangles can be just plain fun too. As an adjunct or alternative to journaling or a short period of reflective time, during a break between lessons, as a way to express emotions related to some happy memory or interaction, or to help students who don’t like to “just breathe” or “calm down” on the spot reach the same state of self-regulation through drawing. Students can also make a zentangle that is based loosely on the lesson topic provided there are no traditional art-based instructions as to how one ‘ought’ to be made. Zentangles have their own unusual principles. Zentangles are also unique drawings of an individual’s inner state. There are general guidelines and they can be based on a chosen theme, but in the end each is an in-the-moment connection amongst a student’s brain, mind and heart.
Students who love to doodle as they listen to either the teacher or to a book on tape, often find they like this method more than doodling. Often doodles are produced as unstructured and unfocused tactile musings whereas zentangles are more deliberate even though still completely personal. There is a purpose or gestalt to the drawing, and in that way, each creates feelings of self-worth and a sense of mastery too.
Zentangle.com says: “The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, and provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well-being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages. We believe that life is an art form and that our Zentangle Method is an elegant metaphor for deliberate artistry in life.”
Here is a sample on their website.
Another website Tangle Patterns says very specifically: “Zentangles are miniature pieces of unplanned, abstract art created through a very specific Method from an ensemble of simple, structured patterns on a 3.5-inch (89 mm) square paper tile. The process of creating a zentangle is a form of “artistic meditation” as one becomes completely engrossed in making each pattern, deliberately focusing on “one stroke at a time”®. The creativity options and pattern combinations are boundless. And anyone can do it!”
As zentangle teacher Margaret Bremner has written, “One of the lovely things about zentangle is that it isn’t supposed to BE anything. Even more, it’s SUPPOSED to NOT be a something. … zentangle is simply beautiful patterns playing harmoniously together.”
There are a number of ways to create a zentangle. I have had fun researching various sites. In the end, you don’t need to get special training to make zentangles. Just get some paper and pen or drawing pencil and start to draw using the basic principles. Learn how to make a zentangle at the site Liz suggests or at http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Zentangle, or look on YouTube if you are an auditory-visual learner. There are many demonstrations there. You can see one completed while you listen to instructions.
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