What’s Missing?

Last week a group of students took an awesome step towards critical literacy at one of my SWST schools.  I was hanging out with a bunch of grade twos that were working on describing pumpkin growth and jack-o-lantern carving.  Their teacher had asked them to take a look at this wordless text and describe what was happening:


Most students began by colouring the pictures.  

As they coloured I walked over to a few groups and told them that I could see that something was missing from the pictures. The students looked a little puzzled and asked me what it was.  I smiled the teacher smile and said, “why don’t you take a second look.  I’m going over to another group to see if they can spot it.  Come over and tap my shoulder when you see it.”  Within a few seconds I got that shoulder tap.  Within a few minutes the whole class was buzzing with conversations around what was missing from the pictures.

Their classroom teacher and I quickly shifted gears and asked them to group together and figure out all of the things that needed to be in the drawings. Their conversations were beautiful!  Take a look at some of their lists:



The Kelley brothers refer to this kind of critical examination in their book Creative Confidence.  They talk about keeping “bug lists”: 

Making “bug lists,” which Tom described in The Art of Innovation, can help you to see more opportunities to apply creativity. Whether you use a piece of paper in your pocket or record ideas on your smartphone, keeping track of opportunities for improvement can help you engage with the world around you in a more proactive way. The running list can serve as a useful source of ideas when you’re looking for a new project to tackle. Or you can make a bug list on the spot.

Write down the things that bug you, and you’ll start being more mindful of them. It may seem like you’re focusing on the negatives, but the point is to notice more opportunities to do things better. And while many of the items on your bug list may be things you won’t be able to fix, if you add to it regularly, you’ll stumble onto issues you can influence and problems you can help solve. Almost every annoyance, every point of friction, hides a design opportunity. Instead of just complaining, ask yourself, “How might I improve this situation?”

Maybe we need to expand this method in our schools.  

What’s missing?

Such a good question.


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