By Ginny Streckewald, M. Ed.
I had always wanted to be an Art Teacher. While pursuing this dream, I found myself student teaching in a small community elementary school. My art classes ranged from K through 8th Grade. As we all do, I found my niche. My favorite place to be was the Kindergarten classroom. I did earn my certification as an art teacher but went on to study El. Ed. and Early Childhood and spent 10 wonderful years with energetic, enthusiastic little learners in Kindergarten. Art played a very important role in my classroom but I quickly learned that my colleagues, the art teachers, were not always as excited about their sessions with my Kindergarten artists. (We do all have our personal comfort zones.) Here is my chance to share a few insights with my friends, the art teachers.
Process over Product
Art experiences for Kindergarteners look and feel very difference from many Art Lessons for older children. Some 5 year olds are just beginning to draw pictorially and they need lots of practice with drawing tools and materials to develop the fine motor control needed to express their ideas. The tools are new! The materials are enticing! Be sure to leave lots of time to explore and experiment so young children can build their skills and comfort levels. The emphasis with the 6 and under crew is not on producing a product to display but on learning to use paint and markers and scissors and clay etc.
Art Enhances Academics
When children are allowed to experiment and practice with the tools in your art room, they are developing important skills that will translate to enhancing academic goals. Example: the child who masters creating lines and shapes with markers and crayons uses those same muscles to form letters and write words. Art further expands beginning literacy goals as Kindergarteners use art to process information and express ideas. When my Kindergarten students began to write stories, I asked them to first draw a picture about their topic. This helped them formulate ideas, think about the details and what they wanted their words to convey. Art Literacy, and the expressive language that often went along with the drawing process, served as a ‘warm up’ for the written word.
Open Ended Art Promotes Creativity
Kindergarten children spend much of their day learning the rules of the school and the one ‘right way’ that things must be done. Let the art room be a place where there are many right answers and innovative thinking is encouraged. No models to copy, please. Divergent thinking skills developed through making choices in their art work can form a foundation for the creative problem solvers of the future.