Growing up, school did not always come easily for me, but I worked hard, found strategies that made a difference, and had the support of amazing parents, who helped me through my map woes and geometry nightmares. I still remember though how devastated I was in elementary school when I got my report card, and I received a D+ in art. A D+. All of my other grades were A’s and B’s, and while I knew that my art skills were far from fantastic — my visual spatial difficulties make art a real challenge — I still spent hours working on school art projects. The D made me feel like a failure, and it destroyed any love that I had for the subject. My childhood art experience put me on edge for many years when I found out that I needed to teach art. How would I do that well? Would the kids get the experiences that they needed? Connections with our then Arts Consultant, Karen Wilkins, helped me understand the value in the process of art. She helped me see how kids can use art to communicate their thinking and learning, and she pushed me to think about what art might look like across the curriculum. I then had the opportunity to teach with Paula Crockett, and for our fifth year now, we’ve been supporting our growing artists. Kids are not only using art as a communication tool (which our fantastic Kindergarten Program Document supports), but they’ve been applying their art learning in different contexts. This was made more clear to me this past week.
Last weekend, Kristi Keery-Bishop, a principal in our Board, commented on one of my Instagram posts. She saw the taped web that one of our children made, and she wondered about tire weaving. This led to us picking up some nets and materials for tire weaving.
Over the years, Paula and I have tried weaving projects with limited success, but this didn’t stop us from trying again. Our hope though was low. The kids surprised us though in the most wonderful of ways. While we thought that the new outside option might attract a few students, we figured that the challenge of weaving would deter them from sticking with it. We were so wrong! Not only did they stick with it, but listen to their conversations around concentric circles and abstract art. Even without us inspiring these discussions, children were applying their classroom learning in a new way, and using sophisticated vocabulary to talk about their artwork. All kids saw themselves as artists here!
Our focus on art has also made me think and look at things differently. When I walked past the tire to sanitize a few items, I noticed the Picasso face. Do you see it too? I just had to point it out to one of our students, as heard in the recording above. Never before would I have believed that I would know enough about art to even think about Picasso, let alone see his artwork in a kindergarten weaving experience.
Thanks to our closer look at famous artists, our daily conversations around artistic terms, and our regular artistic provocations, artwork in our kindergarten class now looks and sounds way different than it ever did for me before.
Children use terms like “concentric circle” with ease.
Children make deliberate artistic choices in their work.
Children know about artists such as Kandinsky and Picasso, and are choosing to explore their artwork more.
Children experiment with new vocabulary, such as “cubism,” and start the theorizing that eventually leads to a greater understanding of new terms.
Children consider the overlap between math and art, and this often leads to greater discussions around math concepts.
While I realize that all students might be at a different point in their art learning, I do agree with this comment of Nadine‘s on one of our recent Instagram posts.
Our kids inspire me daily with what they can do, and the belief that they have in themselves about their abilities as artists. They take risks, experiment, and communicate freely through their artwork. I hope that these kindergarten experiences stick with them as they move on in school, and that grades don’t change their love of art. I’ve learned more about artists in the past five years than I have in all of my years at school, and I learn even more by watching our kindergarten artists at work.
We all need joy in our lives, and art can bring us this joy. How do you help children view themselves as artists? How might art be used as ways to communicate thinking, feeling, and learning well beyond kindergarten? That D only temporarily suspended my love of art, and thanks to Karen and Paula, I’m thrilled to have found this love again!
What a rich blog post Aviva! I feel your initial hesitancy because your experience with art was one that I shared. Even worse, my twin sister was quite gifted in art – which only made me feel more inadequate. Ann Pelo’s book “The Language of Art” really helped me to re-think my role as a teacher of art. Then more time spent exploring process art really gave me confidence to lead children in their engagement with art materials/tools/processes. The work of your students this year is very inspiring. I love sharing with our students the work done by other K students. I expect when they see it, they will be inspired to create their own! Thank you for letting us share in the learning that happens in your community 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Nadine, and for sharing your own art experiences. I love how you mentioned Ann Pelo’s book here. It’s one that I read before I started teaching Full Day Kindergarten, and still one now that I reflect on often. The process of art is really highlighted in it. I actually thought about her book the other day after some sketching led to the addition of fictional items, and I wondered about if/how to pull things back to what was being sketched. You make such a good point here about sharing the work of other K students with your class. We like to do the same. Kids are certainly inspired by what others are doing.