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Kindergarten Art: Emphasizing Process Over Product

written by: rarnar • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 10/9/2013

It may seem easier to simply do a craft project yourself than try to teach a kindergartener how to do it, but it's important for young children to begin exploring art on their own. Read on for some basic ideas to encourage teachers to expand their craft ideas into artful experiences.

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    Importance of Art in the Kindergarten Classroom Have you ever been in a kindergarten classroom where all the art on the walls look oddly the same? Or perhaps you can tell that the teacher did the majority of the cutting and gluing because the googly eyes are in just the right place or the shapes have a cookie-cutter look to them. This kind of art has its place - you're in a hurry and you need to send something home to enthusiastic parents or you're desperate to fill a bulletin board. However, don't let those crafty-quick projects outshine the opportunity to create artistic opportunities for your students.

    "Now more than ever the arts matter in America. The arts are central to our nation's civic, economic, and cultural vitality. The arts reflect who we are and what we stand for: freedom of expression, imagination, and vision. Arts education is indispensable to raising America's next generation of creative, innovative thinkers." -Rocco Landesman, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

    The reality of time, especially in the half-day kindergarten setting, is a large factor when we try to squeeze in a kindergarten art project during our quick days. To allow students to fully explore their artistic challenges, it is a good idea to give them several days to complete a project.

    For example:

    Day 1: Include a short lesson on color theory. Provide students with 'hot' or 'warm' colored crayons (red, orange, yellow) and have them spend time filling a blank piece of paper with these colors. While they're drawing, talk about how the colors make them feel. What objects that we see are made up of hot colors? Write or draw their answers on the board: fire, cherries, flowers, the sun. Are all these items hot or warm? Why?

    Day 2: Present your students with finger paints in cool colors (green, blue, purple). Have the same discussion about the cool colors and allow the students to paint over their original crayon drawings with the finger paint. The crayon pictures will come through the finger paint. Be sure to write down their ideas and answers from your discussion.

    Day 3: Provide time for more discussion about the process by asking guided and open-ended questions. Use examples from the children's own artwork. Here are some samples of questions: Why do you think these colors are called warm and these colors cool? Were there any surprises? What happened when we overlapped the blue with the yellow crayon? Blue and red? If you are wearing a warm color, raise your hand. If you are wearing cool colors, stand up. Write down the comments on a large piece of paper and display these discussion points with the students artwork.

    This lesson is a good example of the blended art method, which is instruction that is both open-ended and teacher-structured. Spending the extra time to complete their own works of art are indispensable opportunities that will instill a sense of pride for a job well done. Focusing more on the process rather than a finished product allows students their own power to deliberately make their own choices while producing something of aesthetic value. The developmental difference can be vast in the primary grades, but a good kindergarten art experience can bridge that gap, allowing each student to be a successful learner.

    "Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life." - John Lubbock, Sr.