Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kindergarten Art Centers

So I'm trying something a little different with Kindergarten this semester. I started looking at the new Arkansas Visual Arts Frameworks that will take affect in the 2015/2016 school year and this Kindergarten standard really stood out to me:

CR.1.K.1 Engage in exploration, imaginative play, and self-directed play with materials (e.g., art-making tools and materials, found objects) 

Imaginative PLAY. Self-directed PLAY. Yes. PLAY. Isn't that an awesome word? It gave me permission to act on an idea I've had for a while. I was making clay hearts with my Kindergarteners and to help them warm up their clay, I told them to play with it for about ten minutes before we started sculpting. You would have thought I asked them to fly out the window. Play? In school? After about thirty seconds though, I realized using the word play was the best thing I could have done for them. It gave them permission to get creative. They weren't worried about what they were making and whether it was good. They were playing. They were creating. They were making hot dogs and necklaces and pizzas and baseballs and hamburgers. I almost hated to stop them to teach them how to make a heart.

I realized then that kids don't get that permission to create without a specific outcome enough. Sure, I do free-draw days. We do Beautiful Oops! and learn that art isn't perfect and we can create without worrying about every single mistake. But something about the word "play" really turned on their creativity. I think kids need that freedom to create, knowing that their creation isn't permanent, in order to build those problem-solving skills and creativity.

So I created Kindergarten Art Centers. We're not going to do them every single week, but at least once a quarter or so, I want my kids to be able to create without consequence, to make and build and draw and trace without being worried about the outcome.

This week, I had my first three centers: Building Center, Drawing Center, and Project Center.

At the Building Center, the kids got to build with Legos (kindly donated by my brother). They got to work alone or in teams of two to build houses, towers, cars, whatever they wanted (except weapons). I also provided rulers for them to measure how tall or long their creations are. I know most kindergarteners aren't fluent in rulers yet so I figured why not give them some time to practice without the stress of being wrong. In addition to the art frameworks being met, I also added these Common Core standards that I felt they could be working on at the building center.

Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.

The kids are loving this center. It's the one they're most excited about from the beginning. Here's a picture of what the Building Center looks like when it's cleaned up (it's the picture I give to the kids so they know how it should look.) 

The Drawing Center has a bunch of "finish the drawing" and step-by-step drawing papers that I had printed earlier in the year for early finishers. I taped transparencies on top of them and just like that, they can be used over and over again. I've also found that Crayola's dry-erase crayons work best for these. I also used washable markers and first (as you'll see in the picture) but even with water, they still leave a lot of color behind. The crayons come off great though. I just throw a couple of damp cloths in the basket and they can do and redo them as many times as they want. I'm a big fan of tracing for younger kids but I've never known exactly how to do it until now. I don't want to teach them that tracing is an acceptable alternative to drawing when they're supposed to be making their own artwork. But this way, they're still getting that muscle memory and fine motor development from tracing but they aren't claiming it as their own work. 

I also feel that the Drawing Center is working on the following Common Core ELA standards: 

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

And lastly, the Project Center. This week, my kiddos were going to be using markers and colored pencils to color their clay hearts from the previous week. I knew that giving them 35-40ish minutes to color a four inch tall heart would result in a disastrous amount of color and scribbling since Kindergarteners have little to know self-control or concept of how much is enough. So I thought this would be a perfect project to start using centers for. The kids would have about 12 minutes to color their hearts; enough time for my slower workers but not too much for my early-finishers/"I'm bored"ers. 

As time goes on, if I'm still really liking centers, I'm planning on adding a Sculpting Center (Play Doh) and possibly even doing a Painting Center on some day when I'm feeling really adventurous. 
I also think I might start doing shorter lessons with small groups in a center every once in a while. Some kids need extra time to get it while other kids just get bored and paint black all over their papers. I like the idea of condensing my instruction/project down to 15 minutes and teaching it three times to three much smaller groups while the others are in other centers. This wouldn't work for every lesson, obviously but I think some concepts could definitely be better taught this way. Sometimes I feel like I only get 15-20 minutes of solid instruction/work time out of a 50 minute period anyway after I spend so much time on getting 22 Kindergarteners to come in, sit down, listen/participate, go to their tables, work, and then clean up at the end anyway! 

Since I have an aide in Kindergarten, I can get away with spending more time with one group and letting her monitor the other two centers that don't need as much attention. If I didn't have her, it would be more difficult to instruct one group and keep the others on task as well I'm sure. I'm thankful for my aide every single day!

What about you? Do you do art centers with your Kindergarteners or any other grade? If so, what have you tried that works? What have you tried that's failed? What are some of your favorite centers to use?  

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