Author Archives: Laurence Musgrove

Independent Reading @ St. John’s School

In a recent post, I talked about my visit to St. John’s School in Houston and my work with students and teachers there on Handmade Thinking.

Sharon Fabriz, an 8th grade English teacher, asked her students to create handmade responses to their independent reading projects, and here below are some of those awesome, awesome 8.5 X 11 page drawings.

In response to Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson:


In response to I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak:


In response to Sphinx’s Queen by Esther Friesner.


In response to The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein:


In response to Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins:


In response to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:


Did I say “8th graders”? Did I say “awesome”?

Handmade Thinking @ St. John’s School

Here’s a photo below from a Handmade Thinking workshop I gave last Friday at St. John’s School in Houston.  Teachers pictured here are from various grade levels and disciplines.  I had a great time at this lunch time workshop.  Earlier in the day, I taught two consecutive 8th grade English classes introducing Handmade Thinking, and afterward these students drew their responses to Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson” which led to a fuller discussion of their understanding and appreciation of the characters in the story.  Thanks to Sharon Fabriz at St. John’s for making all of this possible.  In a later post, I’ll share some the handmade responses her students drew in response to their independent reading projects.



Handmade Thinking on a Serling Story

Here below are some nice “Before & After” handmade responses from Martha Cox’s 7th grade students at Rotan Junior High in Rotan, Texas, north of Abilene.  (Click on image for larger view.)

Here are some examples of what my 7th graders drew after reading “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” by Rod Serling. 
One of these is drawn by a student in special education and one is drawn by a student with cerebral palsy.



Diary of Anne Frank

In a recent post, I mentioned that two teachers at Shelby County Schools in Columbiana, Alabama, were experimenting with Handmade Thinking in their classes.  Here is an email below from one of these teachers, Kathy Broughton, along with some incredible drawings from her students.  Click on the images for larger view.



Hi Laurence!

I wanted to share a few of my students ‘Handmade Responses’ with you. The students really enjoyed this project, and we are looking forward to another one when we start our next unit.

The drawings I sent are based on two different scenes from the ‘Diary of Anne Frank’. I gave each student a copy of your 21 visual format page, and explained the activity. Based on our Skype session, my focus was really more about engaging the students in the story, rather making this a strictly comprehension activity. (and I also think if they are engaged in the story, comprehension at a deeper level can follow- the visual format encourages that layered thinking).

When you are looking at the drawings,  keep in mind that Beth teaches “gifted” students- my classes are made up of different ability levels from special ed, ESL, and average to above average. That being said, I am VERY proud of my students and how their responses turned out! I would love your feedback-

Look forward to hearing from you!


Venn Diagram



Before and After


Pie Chart

Venn Diagram


“Joe Stopped By” by Codrescu

UPDATE:  I sent Codrescu a copy of my students’ handmade responses (see below), and here’s his response.


Here is a great handmade response from one of my advanced composition students in response to Andrei Codrescu’s essay “Joe Stopped By.”  More examples below. 

“Domingo” by Casares

Today in class, my students collaborated on handmade responses to “Domingo” a short story in Brownsville, a collection by Oscar Casares.  I asked them to form groups of 3 or 4 and use one of the 21 visual formats of handmade thinking to depict their responses to the short story.

In this story, Domingo is an illegal who does odd jobs in Brownsville, and on the day of the story, he remembers that it is the birthday of his daughter who died accidentally after he failed to protect her from a fire pit.  The story begins with him squatting in an alley waiting for a ride to work and ends with him climbing a tree that is mysteriously emblazoned with the image of the Virgin Mary.