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Express-a-Book is an innovative and creative approach to a traditional book club.

Express-a-Book uses the Arts, to create a learner centered, collaborative environment to share ideas. Participants experience the Arts and the format highlights the accessibility and power of the creative process. When we bring people together in a collaborative and creative environment we see learners, of all ages, engage at a high level. The Express-a-Book process supports this notion.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

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June 2019
It was wonderful to have the opportunity and excuse to jump in the sandbox and find ways to play with, highlight, reflect, and communicate my learning in a unique way.

About the innovation

How to Express-a-Book

What we do?

Express-a-Book was created to serve as the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative’s (MALI) approach to collaborating, connecting and sharing reading, podcasts, talks etc. MALI believes in the power to share and generate ideas through the ARTS!

We have successfully used Express-a-Book at conferences and gatherings in Maine and beyond in a variety of ways. The format has been shared in workshops, videos, short articles and highlighted in Teaching Strategies That Create Assessment-Literate Learners by Jeffrey Beaudry and Anita Stewart McCafferty.

Why we do it?

Express-a-Book supports learners to:

* Share ideas and resources through an active process

* Use the arts to make information accessible and engaging for learners

* Learn together as a community

* Allow for individuals who do not often engage in art making processes to experience the potential of the arts to enhance learning 

* Offer a low cost, simple, scalable and refreshing approach to a 'book club' 

* The process has practical applications for a variety of classrooms and settings. Express-a-Book can be applied across disciplines or in professional learning communities, it can take place face to face or electronically, within or across schools, districts, across a region/state/country/ and even the globe.

* Individuals must be willing to stretch and be vulnerable

* The process is an example of teachers teaching teachers and provides the structure for learners of all ages to freely share their voices and ideas. 

Express-a-Book was created by members of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI), an eight year old statewide (Maine, USA) organization who is committed to the development of Teacher Leaders to ensure deep understanding and meaningful implementation of high quality teaching, learning and assessment in the Arts for all students. Using a Logic Model MALI educators develop ideas, take on challenges, solve problems and implement and share their at the local level and beyond. The ongoing work impacts hundreds of classrooms, schools and most importantly students and their creative beings. 

Special thanks to Chris Pinchbeck for brainstorming and helping us with the innovative name Express-a-Book.


Lindsay Pinchbeck - All Together - response to A Call to Action
Artistic Response by Lindsay Pinchbeck to A call to action:
The challenges of creative teaching and learning  R. Keith Sawyer, Washington University in St. Louis To appear in Teachers College Record 
Jake Sturtevant -Boredom- Remix
This piece was written as a response to the ideas presented by Manoush Zomorodi in an interview with WNYC here: www.wnyc.org/story/defense-of-boredom/.https://soundcloud.com/sturtwars/boredom-remix
Argy Nestor Explores ideas around Trauma through watercolor and words
Trauma Informed – Trauma Sensitive CommunitiesI have been curious about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Trauma Informed Communities. At the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative’s winter retreat in March 2019 Brittany Ray, the director of TREE – Transforming Rural Experience in Education, provided us with a thought provoking presentation. Her message was clear: “Instead of asking children to beat the odds – use the knowledge of the brain research to change the odds”. I wondered: how does an arts education classroom impact and support learners struggling due to trauma. I decided to use Express-a-Book to acquire knowledge to incorporate into my arts education work. I learned through reading and watching videos on the topic and expressed the information in a two-sided 6 inch by 15 inch paper with one inch square paintings and words. One side includes the facts and what has been learned from the research. The second side expresses the hope that I imagine with educators and communities collectively attacking the issues. Here are some of the points that I learned:· 34 million US children experience trauma· Only 4% of pediatricians are screening for toxic stress· Step 1 is become trauma informed or trauma sensitive· This impacts everyone – whether a child is from an environment of trauma or not· Our brains are complex and need the trust hormone of oxytocin to help with the development. · Oxytocin helps with trust· Arts classrooms are filled with oxytocinCommunities throughout Maine are recognizing this and taking action. Recently an alternative middle school took on the topic – many of them coming from homes that are challenging. In their student centered classroom the learners researched a topic of their choice including poverty, drug dependency, alcoholism, mental health. They expressed their findings through visual art making and included it in a giant brain that they all created together.  All it takes is the right 30 people to have communities transformed to trauma sensitive communities. 
Argy Nestor uses lines and words to express "How Great Leaders inspire Action" a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek.
Jake Sturtevant creates an original soundscape inspired by Mindfulness and Meditation practices
Pebble Meditation Jake SturtevantThis is a new project as part of an Express-A-Book collaboration. It is a meditation with ambient soundscape that I have created. The meditation comes from the book Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh, and it is read by Vishal Sharma, SMILES.
Lindsay Pinchbeck creates colorful bags inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh's Planting Seeds
Reflections - Lindsay PinchbeckOver the course of the winter I read a number of books and explored a variety of resources. I was grounded by Thich Nhat Hanh’s Planting Seeds,  The readings inspired me to be more mindful (and organized) in my daily teaching practice. Juggling many roles, age groups and subjects in a small, independent school I have many elements to weave together. I wanted to be creative with a meaningful end goal, I also love to sew. I found an expression of the books I was reading through sewing provided the creative time I was yearning for. Each bag was created with a book in mind and ultimately answered the call to be more organized and mindful. I was inspired by a recent trip (which allowed me time to read) and reminded me of how organized I needed to be to travel successfully. I wanted to bring the same intentionality to my teaching practice and create lovely bags to keep ideas, books, materials in place for all the times of my week. Each bag slides inside a larger bag and speaks to a variety of needs. I find myself putting poetry, music, books and other inspirations into each bag. At the end of each day I have a place and a rhythm and the habit helps me leave the day behind and come home to be mindful and present with my family. 
What? How? Why?

Implementation steps


Find or be guided into a group of kindred spirits. Recommended 2-5 people. Participants may represent different grade levels, and/or content OR be interdisciplinary groups, administrators, parents, colleagues, friends....


 What are some interests or resources that you are currently exploring or would really like to explore? 

How much time do you have available? We recommend an initial 45 minute meeting to set goals and identify topics, approx. 6 weeks of independent time researching and expressing the topic and at least 20 minutes per person to share out ideas at the end of the 6 weeks. 

What days and times would you be available to meet? 

Will we meet in person or online?


INITIAL CONNECTION MEETING - Decide the format of the group 

Will you all read/view an article, book, video, or resource together?

 Will you individually choose an article, book, video, or resource? 

Will you each choose a section of a larger reading to do?

 Define the course of your learning together. 

This meeting should be approx. 45 mins - 1 hour. 


Decide on a meeting date and time.  

To help schedule a meeting time, we use Doodle Poll. https://doodle.com/

Meet in person or through a digital platform such as Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts etc.

The length of time in between to read, research and create will depend on commitments and time constraints. We recommend 6 weeks between the initial meeting and final sharing out. However we have also offered 1.5 hour workshops and seen deep conversations and learning emerge with this framework. Express-a-Book is very flexible!


You've absorbed your learning (book, article, ted talk, podcast etc...) now it's time to create!

Here are few prompts to inspire the creative process - 

What resonated with you and has you thinking? 

Which creative discipline (dance, drama, media arts, music, storytelling, poetry, visual arts etc) will you use to express and communicate your learning? 

What medium will you select to communicate? 

If you aren’t sure begin doodling, moving, writing, talking whatever you need to do to get ideas flowing. Consider doing several sketches, improvisations/compositions or playing freely before settling on a final idea. 


Introductions & overview of the discussion - Each individual presents: 

Suggested format: 

• Share Artistic representation of reading/video/resource 

-  DON’T TALK TOO MUCH- It is suggested not to give a lot of insight into the 

reading/resource itself, but allow time for others to experience what you have created. 

• Responses from others 

- Feedback, Insight, and Reflection 

 “I Wonder, I Notice, What if, Talk to, My question is.” 

• Artist statement & discussion: 

 Insight into process & product 

- Answer some questions in the responses from others

- Discuss concepts presented further 


Each member offers one or two sentences as a personal response to their Express-A-Book experience. 

"I was motivated to keep working on my painting and poem and excited, if a bit nervous, to share. I received great feedback which motivated me to keep working, learning and thinking more deeply about my initial ideas in the article and my art work. I can't wait to share my learning with my students." Lindsay Pinchbeck 

"I loved being challenged to stretch myself and because of that I learned so much more and differently than I do in a traditional book club. I have so much respect for both Jake and Lindsay, it was great to have the chance to collaborate with them to develop and go through the process with a new idea. I was so encouraged and inspired by Lindsay and Jake’s creations! The Express-a-Book process brought everyone’s learning to a different place." Argy Nestor

The following quotes are feedback and take aways from HundrED ambassadors and innovators participating in Express-A-Book, Winter 2019.

“The most fascinating thing I thought to be the concept of books connecting us human beings and allowing us to share with one another thoughts and ideas that go beyond the text of a book. ” Luiza Mogosanu, Germany.

“The most amazing part of Expressing a book program was the diversity of creative ways that each of the participants came up with. It opened up new ways the same knowledge could be understood, expressed and explained. I would love to do another one soon.” Vishal Sharma, SMILES, India.

“ It gave me respite and focus and meaning at a time of unsettling flux in my community and physical environment. Artist endeavors and dialogue are often powerfully able to do that. And this certainly did.” Alex Bell, Portland Education, UK.

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