Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lesson Plan: Zentangles

We did such a wonderful activity as part of our Buddhism unit in World Religions.  One week we focused on Zen Buddhism, which has a great focus on being in the moment.  I wanted the students to have a Zen experience, so we did three activities in a row in complete silence (a total of 30 minutes, which is a LONG time not to talk when you are 12-14).

First, we did a silent Zen meditation that focused completely on the breathing.  That lasted for 10 minutes (and felt like a LONG 10 minutes for some of them, although others found it relaxing).  We ended up with a 5 minute silent journaling activity, in which they wrote down their experience of the three events.

In between those, however, we did 15 minutes of this wonderful thing called Zentangle ®.

We used Zentangle as a drawing meditation.  It is a deceptively-simple art form created by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts that is supposed to improve the artist's focus, awareness, feelings of freedom and relaxation, and artistry by creating repetitive patterns on a small (3.5 inches) square of paper.  The square is first divided into sections by a few lines, and then each portion of the square is filled with a different pattern.  In its purest state, it is supposed to be only black and white, but some add colors as well.

The students and I all LOVED doing this.  Compared to the breathing meditation, the students felt that the time seemed to fly by and that it was easy to maintain the silence.  Making a Zentangle  is very liberating, because even those who claimed "I can't draw" felt like they could draw lines and "doodle."  It does capture your focus and your attention in a very relaxing way, and is mostly spontaneous, and yet repetitive.  And it does draw you into kind of a Zen experience.  Apparently, people are using it all sorts of way, including doing it before tests to get students into a relaxed and focused way, or as part of the process of addiction recovery and other related theraputic uses.

It's the sort of thing that is hard to explain.  But I highly recommend you visit the Zentangle website, or other online resources about this new art form (one of my favorites is Zentangle Patterns), get the basic instructions, and try it yourself!

Below we have the beautiful tiles (as they are called by their creators, Maria and Rick) created by our class.  As always, even though everyone was given the same materials and directions, the results turned out to be very different and reflective of the varied personalities in the group.

















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