Art, Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Motivation, Teaching Tools

Zen Pencils Teacher’s Guide

It’s Phun Phriday.  Technically I do a post on something that is not very related to education on these days.  But I was so excited to see this new resource from Zen Pencils that I had to share it with you right away!

The artist behind Zen Pencils, Gavin Than, creates amazing, inspirational posters based on quotes from men and women who have made an impact on our world.  He is one of my favorite artists and I was thrilled when a book of his work was published.

Teachers can now use this free Teacher’s Guide along with Gavin’s posters.  It includes discussion questions, activities, and cartooning advice.

Not every poster’s subject will be appropriate for your class, so choose the ones that work for your age group and academic area. Watch how these posters capture the imagination for your students!


Art, Books, Creative Thinking, Education, Motivation, Parenting, Teaching Tools

Zen Pencils – the Book

Gavin Aung Than, the super-talented artist behind Zen Pencils, published a collection of some of his comics last November. Needing a bit of inspiration this week, I read it again from cover to cover. When I finished, I felt like I was almost as powerful as Rising Phoenix, one of his recurring characters.

Rising Phoenix from Zen Pencils "Marie Curie" cartoon by Gavin Than
Rising Phoenix from Zen Pencils “Marie Curie” cartoon by Gavin Than

Gavin takes famous quotes and creates amazing cartoons around them.  Some of the 36 cartoons included in the book are based on selected words from: Theodore Roosevelt, Marianne Williamson, Marie Curie, and Vincent Van Gogh.  Gavin’s artistic interpretation of each passage is incredibly insightful and extremely creative.

Zen Pencils Book

Of course, one of my favorite gems in the book is Gavin’s cartoon based on Taylor Mali’s poem, “What Teachers Make.” (Not one to show to your students, though!)

To see one of Gavin’s recent masterpieces, take a look at “All the World’s a Stage,” a beautiful adaptation of the Shakespearean quote from As You Like It.  This is the closest I’ve ever come to crying over a cartoon – or Shakespeare.

Though I wouldn’t recommend this book for younger children (a tiny bit of questionable language and gestures and a large portion of higher level vocabulary), you can see in this “Reader of the Month” feature that Gavin’s readers are as young as 10 years old.  You can see Zen Pencils inspired artwork by the two girls here.

The book includes a wonderful pull-out poster featuring many of Gavin’s cartoon characters and the motto, “Imagination Unlocks the Universe.”

Zen Pencils would make a wonderful graduation gift for a high school or college student or for any teenager or adult who appreciates a healthy dose of creativity and inspiration.  I will be adding this to my “Books for Gifted Students – Or Any Child Who Loves to Learn” Pinterest Board as a recommendation for older students.  If you have an interest in Zen Pencils, but you aren’t sure you want to commit to a book of 36 cartoons, take a look at the Zen Pencils store, where I guarantee you will find a poster that is perfect for any setting.

Art, Creative Thinking, Education, Motivation

Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education

I’ve featured Zen Pencils cartoons on here a few times.  The artist Gavin Aung Than is very talented and creates amazing cartoons based on inspirational quotes.  His latest illustration comes from Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity.”  The need for a “full body education” is one that I think many educators find is being stifled by the ever-increasing dominance of standardized tests.

image from: "Sir Ken Robinson - Full Body Education" by Gavin Than of Zen Pencils
image from: “Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education” by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils

Sir Ken Robinson did an interesting interview about this talk on the TED Radio Hour episode, “The Source of Creativity”, which also includes Sting, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Charles Limb.  It is an extremely intriguing hour that I highly recommend.

Also, Gavin Than has a book coming out in November, 2014, which you might want to consider.  It will include many of the favorite comics featured on his website.

Education, K-12

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

levels of change
courtesy of @GingerLewman

It’s nearing the end of Connected Educator month, and I finally have a post about it.  Better late than never, right?

This post was actually inspired by last night’s Two Guys Show conversation with Ginger Lewman. Ginger works with ESSDACK, and is a specialist in Project Based Learning, among many other things.

As Ginger said about our culture in education, “We don’t live in a competitive; we live in a comparative” culture.   She gave a great analogy (about 26 minutes into the show) that describes the different levels of implementing change (pictured above) – basically saying that all levels have their strengths and weaknesses.

Brad Waid talked about the need for different ways to assess our students – a topic that seems to have the agreement of most educators, but still remains controversial for some reason.

Later on, Drew Minock discussed his wish that our system would differentiate for teachers as it asks us to differentiate for students.   And, unfortunately, it is not always just the people above us who are so rigid.  Sometimes we can be hard on each other.

Although my blog is subtitled, “Great minds don’t think alike,” I am going to agree with Drew, Brad, and Ginger who, paradoxically, think alike about not thinking alike.

I love being connected through Twitter, Google Plus, and this blog – learning from educators all around the world.  It has enhanced my life in many ways.  I have always been a voracious learner, eager to hear new ideas, and, sometimes foolhardily, adopting them wholeheartedly.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate my Professional Learning Network.

But it’s not the end-all-be-all way to be a great educator.  And, believe me when I say that I do not for a second believe that I am the best educator I can be.  I am constantly falling on my face, and striving to do better.  I look to my network of colleagues to help me with this.  And I share things, not because I want you to think I’m fabulous, but because I hope someone will think, “This might be good for my students,” – and maybe a teacher will contact me with an even better idea built on mine.

I know many fabulous teachers who use little technology.  Just because I love to use it in my classroom does not mean that it’s the only way students can learn.

The best teachers I know love their students.  They let them know with their words and actions that they matter.  My favorite teacher in high school was not, by any means, funny or entertaining.  And, of course, back in the Stone Age, we did not use any technology.  But, every time she saw a puzzled look on my face in the middle of a lecture, she would stop and say, “I can tell you have a question.”  She would re-trace her steps, or explain something in a new way.  She let me know, by those small gestures, that I mattered.

So, if you are feeling pressured to be a Connected Educator, please don’t feel that way.  Don’t compare yourself to others, or worry that you’re falling behind.  All of us are just making our own way, learning the best we can.  If you want to be like me, and jump right into the deep end, and then think, “Oh, I should probably learn how to swim at some point,” go for it.  (Exactly how I felt when I plunged myself and my entire class into our first ever Twitter chat last week.)  There are plenty of people willing to throw out life jackets, and no one berates you for being too impulsive.  But you can also be the one sitting on the beach building your own glorious sandcastle.

Do you let your students know that they matter?  Then, you are connected to them.  And that makes you the best kind of Connected Educator.

from: ZenPencils
Quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti, illustrated by Gavin Than on
Art, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Motivation, Philosophy, Social Studies, Teaching Tools, Websites

Zen Pencils

artist:  Gavin Aung Than

The genius behind Zen Pencils is Gavin Aung Than.  Zen Pencils is a “a cartoon blog which adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories.”  I admire Than’s talent immensely, and I was so thrilled when I discovered his site.  Like many people, I collect inspiring quotes, and when Than’s graphics accompany them, they are true art.

You can get your own set of three free, high quality posters from Zen Pencils by signing up for updates here.  They feature quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I think they are perfect for the classroom.  If you go to Than’s blog, he even gives you tips for framing his posters.  More prints are available, of course, from the Zen Pencils store.  One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is featured above, and can be found in the store.

I also like the Downloads page.  My plan for next year is to download the wallpapers to the desktop computers in my classroom – maybe even the iPads – so when they are not being used there will still be some inspiring graphics on their screens!