Friday, February 7, 2014

Accepting Age-Appropriate Drawings

Choice based art education is about honoring the student's artistic choices- the students choose the subject matter, approach, materials, and style that will help them communicate their ideas. For this to work at the primary level, you have to get comfortable with the stages of artistic development and be ok with kids working at their stage. A lot of the Kinders (and even a few first graders) are still in the Pre-Schematic stage.
The snowman drawing on the left was made by a Pre-K student that comes to specials with a Kindergarten class. He ALWAYS has a story about his drawings. :) Students at this age are not usually going for realism. They are more interested in drawing expressively and using schema- showing the world as they understand it. As students learn and experience more, their schema sort of updates. I use questioning a lot when talking to students about their drawings- Does your person have hair? How many fingers do you have? Where is your person/animal/house/etc.? Did you know the sky comes all the way down to the ground in real life?
 Some students are more concerned with putting things in space and have learned about horizon lines. Some students aren't ready to organize their artwork in this way. I went through photos of a semester's worth of artwork and just tried to choose a representative sample for this blog post. I saw a lot of growth in just a few months and can see that students were trying out some of the things we've talked about- like coloring in all the white spaces, drawing big, adding details, etc.
This student likes to stick to a limited color palette in most of his work. It's always interesting to see what he chooses.
Even though students are making the artistic choices, we can still encourage good craftsmanship at every age level, even Kindergarten. We try not to scribble. Students are working on doing their best work and being neat so that it's easier for the viewer to understand their idea. The focus on craftsmanship, and the desire to not blow through all my paper, is why we have a "rule" of working on projects for more than one class period. Most of the time we stick to that rule, but occasionally a student will work super hard and finish something in one class, really having given it their best effort and then I don't make them keep adding more just to fit the rule.
 We've had lots of mixed media experimentation. This student painted a horse and the next week wanted to try out pastels for the background. I love those bold colors and strokes!
This drawing was a "free" drawing made in the last class before winter break. The student and I didn't critique this drawing since it was a quick one made in about 10 minutes, but I liked that she went for it and drew directly with marker. It's not colored in perfectly, but the spontaneity works.
This student used one of my "drawing models" (plastic animals from the Dollar Tree) to make this drawing of a lizard. Kindergarteners are so funny. Some will work so hard to observe and draw realistically but then fall back into those "emotional" colors when they finish.
What is the most popular subject for Kinders to draw? Rainbows! I will be posting a collection of rainbow drawings soon.


  1. Terrific post! So many times I have seen projects posted that have an end project that really has nothing to do with where the kids at that age are developmentally. Even if we aren't doing choice-based work in our classrooms, we still should be planning lessons that are appropriate for the stages of artisitc development, not just because there is a cute expected outcome. So often I see lessons that haven't succeeded because they weren't developmentally appropriate. Kudos to you for posting this.

  2. I'm teaching K1 (4 and 5 year olds) for the first time ever this year and it's been a huge learning experience for me. Learning about what they are capable of (I found out zig zags are a developmental thing!) and what they like to draw. Some of the best drawings I've got out of them is when I brought in mirrors and we talked in detail about what we can see in the face. Where are the eyes? What are these holes in my nose? Do boys also have eyelashes? etc I think at this age it's almost more important to teach them how to see, and give them many different media opportunities. I always ask them about details and try to show them pictures or get them to look at things when they draw (of course not always going to happen and I still have some kids who just like to make marks and play with colour). And yes the fascination with rainbows is interesting!

    1. The students LOVE mirrors! I have a whole box in the drawing center. I also like to ask to remind them that yes, boys do have eyelashes, too! :)
      My favorite thing to do is make them "measure" where their eyes are on their faces with their hands, otherwise they don't believe that eyes are in the middle.

  3. Regardless of your good intentions, I think mirror are not a good thing for 1rst grader- Their sense of self is still very much immersed in their environment and they do not have a clear conscious on about how they look - That awareness comes later -
    My son had a teacher in first grade who chose to have the children drew themselves with a mirror - H colored his eyes bright green - She made him aware that they were NOT green but brown - He was confused AND devastated to have done a " bad" observation. the observation of one -self is still in the fantasy world - To push it towards realistic is against their healthy development - read R. Steiner -+ development of heathy children.

    1. I don't make children use a mirror to use a mirror or to use the "correct" colors. Some choose to look in the mirrors but the youngest just like watching their reflections draw more than trying to mimic what they see. I'm sorry that your son was made to feel that way! It makes me think of the song "Flowers are Red". That song jut about makes me cry every time I listen to it!