Creating, Performing & Responding to Art

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Integrating art into the early childhood classroom can be a wonderful way to engage students' senses and get them excited about learning. This lesson focuses on ideas for helping young children create, perform and respond to art.

Art and Early Childhood

Tracy is the director of a preschool for children between the ages of two and five. Since she began working there, she has always encouraged her teachers to incorporate as much art as possible. Tracy knows that art can help children express themselves, or make their personalities, ideas and feelings known even if they do not yet have a great grasp of oral language. She believes art can be therapeutic, helping children feel better when they are sad. She also knows that for young children, art can be a wonderful sensory experience, making them aware of their bodies, their five senses, and the things they can do with different materials. Finally, Tracy believes that art can help young children connect to a wider world of cultural experience, since they can learn to appreciate art that other people produce or have produced over time.

Creating Art

Tracy makes sure that all of the teachers at her preschool give students a chance to create art every single day. She knows that creating art helps students feel competent and expressive. One strategy teachers use is having students work with art to respond to stories. Often, after teachers read picture books to their groups, they will have children draw or paint in response to the story. Sometimes, children paint pictures similar to those of the illustrator, while other times they draw in response to a particular theme.

Many young children love working with mixed media and collage materials. Teachers often put out scraps of fabric, tissue paper, ribbon and buttons when their students are making collages.

Some of the students at Tracy's school even keep art journals. They use these journals to sketch observations from nature, draw pictures representing their days, or practice drawing things they hope to master. They can look back over their journals to see their progress.

Another way to have young children create hard is to capitalize on the fact that they tend to love the sensory experience of working with clay, and students can also make sculptures out of wire, yarn, or recycled materials.

A great community-building art project for a group of children can be a mural. Teachers at Tracy's school put out rolls of butcher paper and let students go to work together, then hang the mural in their classroom.

Performing Art

Not all art is strictly visual, of course. Tracy makes sure that the teachers at her school give plenty of opportunities for students to express themselves via performance.

Sometimes, teachers give students the chance to act out favorite scenes from books or fairy tales. They can do this in small groups informally or more formally for a larger audience.

Music and dance is often a big part of an early childhood educational experience, and Tracy helps her teachers see that this is art, as well. Sometimes at morning meeting or circle time, teachers will invite small groups of children to sing their favorite song for the rest of the group.

Tracy's teachers also let their students act out social problems and use this performance modality as a way to brainstorm solutions to tricky problems that come up among groups of friends.

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