Not so dotty

Join the dots . . . where will they take you?

Holly B. F. Warren wonders whether ‘joining the dots’ is a finite or infinite thinking exercise – especially as we thinking about learning and teaching. 

Starting point?

Join the dots is commonly used activity that focuses on numbers that reveal an image. Is this true? Maybe in the most common use. What if the dots suddenly stopped leaving a big space….for imagination. What if the sequence of numbers were just a starting point, an excuse, an invitation, a nudge, a question, or a proposal.

In this case how many numbers would you need and how would you position the dots? What kind of invitation would you be proposing? What subjects would you be exploring and how far would you stretch the activity? Furthermore why? Why would you want to change such a straightforward exercise?

Why not?

There are so many answers to why? We are so often prompted to ask the question to have a pretty definite answer that guides us to avoid time wasting energy and prove our knowledge and experience. What if we started with a simple, why not?

Why not take a different path?  Why not welcome a twist along the path and decide to go left instead of right? Why not reflect on the activity with a different mindset and perspective that would open a window or two into areas that invite observation, reflection, and metacognition?

Joining the dots in teaching

Why? Because teaching is a journey that might need to be adjusted and recalculated as you learn more about your students at a given time in a given place and you know that the path is like a heartbeat. What is the best you can give to further stimulate and arose curiosity while embracing the students’ learning path with trust and celebration?

Join the dots go your own way…be unique and find out more about you, inspire others to follow theirs. Wander and wonder.

Young minds join their dots, #1

I gave my young students 4-7yrs old a join the dots activity to 10 knowing they knew their numbers very well.  This was done in groups of mixed aged children. Each group was composed of 3 to 4 children. They didn’t see the other groups work until the end. The total number of children was 12.

It was just a starting point, an excuse, an invitation, a nudge, a question, or a proposal. Furthermore, the dots on the first page were in a simple curve. My students looked at me in wonder with a sliver of superiority. The second prompt was finish the picture. What can you do with a simple curve?

Well, if we have worked together, as my students and I have over a period of time you would know that there is more than just a simple question and a curve is …the beginning of a moment of self-discovery. They understood that I wasn’t after ticking the numeracy box but giving them space to use their imagination to reveal and practice their uniqueness. What did they see? Would they make shy attempts or let loose?

Joining the dots #2


In the second prompt was a longer string of numbers placed in a random sequence with no apparent logic. This was given to a group of 6 to 7yrs olds. What were the students going to make of it? What would they see? How would they react? As they worked their way through the sequence, they asked questions about the bizarre order and started laughing as they saw the line scribble its way on the sheet. Not once did they think it was incorrect or random. They faced the task with joy and imagination. Trust and our experience together had sewn the seed of mutual respect and collaboration.



The students didn’t add dots and or numbers to the ones they found.

The talked about their illustrations in depth and how they enjoyed the activity.

Some students gave themselves a long time to complete and forgot about numbers while others said that the number of dots created the simplicity or intricacy of the drawings.

Some were puzzled and surprised by their pictures.

As they observed the group’s work they commented on the ideas, similarities and differences in the work and were inspired by details or lack of details.

Personally, it was another great opportunity to join some dots along the way in my teaching career and wonder at the students’ potential and how to best continue the dots without an end point.


“Forecasters predict that human skills will be confined to the Three Cs

–   the Creatives, the Carers and the Custodians.”

Charles Handy – 21 letters on Life and Its Challenges


Imagineer, Artist, Teacher, Free Spirit, Optimist.




FEATURE IMAGE: by Leah Newhouse:

Support Images: Kindly provided by Holly

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