Saturday, June 2, 2012

Let's Talk Art!

I have always wanted to write a post about Art. It's summer now and art is on my mind. I feel like I could possibly just get lost in some sort of creative project and enjoy the process of not thinking about being right or wrong, not thinking about being judged or critiqued or not worrying about the outcome...simply enjoying the process of art. As soon as I started thinking about a project to conquer, I immediately started thinking about art in Kindergarten even though I tried really hard not to think of work in my first 10 hours away from school.

I have always been puzzled by the way art is perceived in the elementary school classroom. Art is one of those subjects that many people feel they do not have time for or they do not value the same as Language Arts, Math, Science or Social Studies. There even seems to be the perception that art is just "playing around" and no clear objectives are being addressed. Interestingly enough, in my state, we have art objectives.

The introduction to the Art Objectives for my state reads-

Four basic strands--perception, creative expression/performance, historical and cultural heritage, and critical evaluation--provide broad, unifying structures for organizing the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire. Students rely on their perceptions of the environment, developed through increasing visual awareness and sensitivity to surroundings, memory, imagination, and life experiences, as a source for creating artworks. They express their thoughts and ideas creatively, while challenging their imagination, fostering reflective thinking, and developing disciplined effort and problem-solving skills.
 By analyzing artistic styles and historical periods students develop respect for the traditions and contributions of diverse cultures. Students respond to and analyze artworks, thus contributing to the development of lifelong skills of making informed judgments and evaluations.

Just looking at that statement alone gives enough justification to feel comfortable incorporating Art into the Kindergarten schedule. As I was highlighting some key phrases and words, it is easy to see that art would easily integrated into just about any subject we teach. Looking at the new Bloom's Taxonomy isn't it interesting that analyzing, evaluating and creating are at the top of the pyramid?
Thinking about the value of art in Kindergarten and looking at just this tidbit of information, I can clearly see integrated lessons that incorporate art through text to self connections, self expression and oral language development, written response and that is just the beginning. Looking at art from a different perspective allows you to see that integrated art could be an opportunity for what I call a "second chance at literacy."

Process vs. Product art has been a hot discussion among Early Childhood teachers for what seems like forever. I think Pre K + K Sharing does a great job of explaining both. This is a great post that is full of information that any teacher of young children would find interesting. It does make you think about what art looks like in your own classroom.

Where I teach, Kindergarten is not in the Art rotation, so that means that I am actually the art teacher. The funny thing is that in all of my undergraduate work, I was not required to take any classes to help me teach art to young children even though we have objectives for art. I actually would have loved to have taken a class or two. I probably would not have been as stressed about the 48 hours of science if someone would have let me paint, create and collage a little...or a lot.

We had a few successful directed art lessons this year in Kindergarten. These were some of our favorites that will surely become Kindergarten traditions for me. Working through these two projects helped me to understand a lot about directed art lessons with children. First, what the art teacher effortlessly posts on the school walls looks easy. We walk by and admire the work she has helped children create and sometimes think just how easy that must have been. A few basic lines and shapes and some paint and you have some beautiful art. The real truth is that it's not as easy as it looks. There actually is a lesson involved.
One area I struggled with for a while was communicating my lesson to the class. I struggled with wording with my English Language Learners. At times they struggled to create a mental picture of what I was saying. We had a few lessons that flopped and I was disappointed but I always brought my class back together and discussed how we would try again. I really listened to what they said about each experience and I learned from those discussions. Those after session share times were valuable to me. I actually went home and scripted the lessons because it just did not feel second nature to me and I knew I had to think about the vocabulary I was using and I had to incorporate some hand gestures into the lesson. I also learned that art is a process and it takes time. I now plan well in advance these projects and allow for lots and lots of time for the finished outcome. Surprisingly, what we all enjoyed was seeing the process even if something took us several sessions and maybe several weeks.

What I also learned was that when we evaluated our art we sometimes decided that we wanted to start over. I felt that way at times and so did the children. So now I always plan for additional time and I make sure that I have more than enough materials just in case we choose to redo. I had to become comfortable with knowing that art is a process and process takes time. We also learn through the process as we analyze, evaluate and problem solve to reach the final outcome.

What I also learned was that once we finish a directed art lesson the children wanted to revisit the art materials. This would be a great time to allow for some process art. They can apply what they have been taught using the same materials but this time they would direct the process. I did not do near enough of this with my class but I will next year.

Like I said, I am still in the process of learning how to incorporate art into my Kindergarten classroom and I am interested in some integrated lessons across all subject areas. I am thrilled that I will be taking an ecourse available at Deep Space Sparkle. I just can't wait for this to start. When I look at that blog I just want to jump right in and make something. I hope to be able to share what I learn this summer and I hope you will join me.


Jessica Stanford said...

Love this post! I just read I Ain't Gonna Paint No More and my students loved it!

Jessica Stanford
Mrs. Stanford's Class Blog

Mrs. Parker said...

I love Ain't Gonna Paint No must have one of my little ones because it has been missing for some time.

I hope you post how to handle painting with 20 non-experienced painters, 1 teacher and limited supplies. :)

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