Tuesday, 5 February 2013

learning from each other

 Taking inspiration from the children is an important part of what we do as teachers, to support their learning through their interests and to capture their imaginations by helping them develop them further.

This was supposed to be an art session about painting a picture of your own house, as a part of a Stockholm project (we had been visiting each child's front door and taking a photo of their home). The children, though, were far from inspired - 16 wrinkled noses looked back at me - OK, what about a dream house painting - 13 happy faces looked back - three of them decided painting their own house was in fact a good idea.

The first three pictures represent the first three children who worked on their dream house. You can see how the above painting was inspired by the below painting - adding a flower annex to the house as well as sun and rain.
 The below painting, a circle house with a rainbow roof (sorry the painting is on its side) and circle windows and feet, also came from the same session as the flower houses. These paintings were mounted on the wall and the children were able to present their dream houses to their friends the following day.
 In the next group one child made a skyscraper with flame designs on the side - the flat roof was chosen "because there is not room to make a triangle roof on the paper"...

 As we did not have any permanent black pens to draw the details the children drew their designs in pencil first and then used liquid water colours (I made this by adding water to some ready mix and presenting them to the children in small glass jars). The children learned how to use their brushes carefully and how to wash and clean/dry them between dipping them in a new colour - or after they had mixed the colour on their paper. They had a choice of wide and thin brushes so that they could learn about the differences - how the thin brushes were better for details and the wider brushes better for painting bigger areas. I then asked the children if they would allow me to go over their pencil design with a black pen to allow their designs to stand out. It would have been more child-centred to have allowed the children to use permanent markers and not to require my support in the process - but sometimes it's a case of making the best with what you have - the children were pleased with the result - and they could see that I respected their drawing enough to want to highlight it - so it had its positive side too.

In the third session one of the children made it quite clear where their inspiration had come from. "I want to make a round house with feet and circle windows too" The child also made a rainbow roof, but when the paint brushes came out creating a rainbow was no longer important. The "squiggle" at the top of the page is the child writing about the house. The child had seen me writing down everyone else's words about their houses and was inspired to do the same.

I like being able to offer the children art sessions in very small groups (2-3 children) - as it gives me the chance to support all the children, to see all the children and hear all the children - and to encourage the children to take the time to see and listen to each other too. If the children never have access to these small sessions then it is harder to support them in the larger groups. The small group work is an investment to enable large group work to be effective, fun, and inspiring for everyone.

It also allows the art to be so much more than a creative session - it becomes language support, maths, social skills, fine motor skills, science, technology, learning about the world ... in fact the whole curriculum is allowed the time to permeate the session. And once it has permeated with an entire group of children then it is easier to include more and more elements of the curriculum in all the art and creative sessions regardless of the size of the group.

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