Teaching Kindergarten art is a great way to learn to let go.  My first lessons came back when I first got Julianna some watercolor paints (far too young, I’m sure.  I probably gave them to her at 5 mos, the way the first child always gets rushed) and discovered that rinsing the brush between colors was just NOT going to happen.  Crayola should just sell a big cake of dark grey paint and not bother with the individual colors.  Not worth the hassle.  Likewise Playdough should just come in a greyish-brownish shade.  It was hard to learn that 3 year olds just. don’t. care. about that stuff.  It’s the process, not the product, lighten up.

I’ve decided to continue my once a month Introduction to Great Artists with the Kindergarten.  I no longer have one of those insane monkeys living in my house (praise be), but I can go in once a month, right?  The other K teacher asked if I would come to her class this year, too, so I do two classes of 15 kids. I went all Montessori on them this year and I start by showing a world map and finding where the artist is from.  (Kid One: Hey!  There’s North America!  Kid Two: I live in North America!  Me: NO WAY!  Me too!  We must be neighbors!)  Then I have a timeline from 1900-2000 to show when the artist was working (Montessori loves timelines).  We do a brief look at the artist’s work, and then a project.

Last month, I started us off with Paul Klee, who once said “A dot is a line that goes for a walk.”  Or something to that effect.  And in German.   I gave them each a black oil pastel crayon and a sheet of watercolor paper.  I had them draw a big dot as a starting point, anywhere on the paper.  Then I told a little “story” along the lines of “I left my house and went down a wiiiiiinding road.  I had to hop 3 times to get over the puddles.  Then I stopped and turned left…” and so on, guesturing wildly to enourage them to draw along with my instructions.  Some got it.  Some didn’t.  Some got it and flat ignored me.  Then I gave them watercolors to paint over the drawing.  I used my brilliant liquid watercolor in an old popsicle mold method–each color with its own brush.  But it’s impossible to make sure 15 kids are keeping the brush with the color and soon they were muddy messes.  Mostly.  The funny thing is always that each table has a style.  If one kid starts mixing the colors and slapping them around, the other kids at that table do the same.  If one kid is watching, and keeping them separate, that table stays clean.  And that child deserves a pony.

Here’s the bulliten board, with both classes on it:

See how some have white space and some don’t?  That’s one table of 4, one of 3, and one of 2.  You can tell which kids sat together pretty easily.  In the end, though, I really like the effect of the washes better.  So messy kids rule!

On Friday, I went back to the Keith Haring well for a new project (the photos are all screwy.  Shutterly explained why and how to fix it, but instead I just started using Flickr instead).  Kids love Haring’s work because they GET it.  It’s bright, cheerful, looks like what it’s supposed to be.  And, it teaches them about safe sex (no, I don’t show them those).  This time, I did a project that Haring himself used to do with kids.  He’d seat them around a large sheet of paper (I had to use two pieces of poster board) and give them each a marker.  While music played, the kids doodled on the space in front of them.  Then the music stopped, and the kids moved one space over and started doodling to the music again.  Repeat a couple of times.  I started them with black markers for doodling and then switched to colored markers for coloring in.  Stupidly, I had an idea in my head of what would happen.  I tried to be realistic and prepare for trouble.  “When you change places, someone else’s drawing will be in front of you.  You can add to it if you want, or start a new one.  someone else might add to a drawing you started.  That’s okay.  This is a group project and that is what happens in group projects.  When we color in, you will not get to color in the things you drew.  And that’s okay.  Someone else will color the drawings you made.  That’s okay.”  And “I will give you a colored marker.  It might not be your favorite color.  That’s okay.  It’s not the only marker you will ever get for the rest of your life, it is just the marker you get for this project.”  One kid piped up “You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit!”  Seems they’ve been down this path before.  Albeit by way of Alabama.

Well, as I am so often reminded, their priorities are not the same as mine.  In spite of my nattering on about “doodling” and making small doodles and not worrying about details–just make outlines!- and not coloring in, once they get that marker on the paper, I just fade to the background.  A lot of them are still firmly in what probably has a fancy developmental art name, but I call “process drawing”–he draws a car and then draws a tree right on the front, which causes flames to errupt from the hood!  Like Howard and the Purple Crayon but with more mayhem.  And little girls screeching “Miss Deana!  Jimmy is scribbling on my spot!”  “Miss Deana! Tommy is making a BIG drawing, you said to make SMALL drawings!”  It’s so hard to find the balance between knocking the marker out of their disobedient mits and just staying out of it.   Sadly, I couldn’t catch ALL the scribbling (and some of the kids really just wanted to scribble.  Defiantly. I take comfort in not having to take those kids home with me) and redirect, so the finished effect is a tad schizophrenic  (literally.).

Look!  One of the kids remembered the Klee lesson!  Give that kid a pony!

The Klee project was better in terms of process and product both being rewarding.  The Haring project had great process–TomTom Club on the CD player!  Changing places!–but the product wasn’t as pleasing to my eyes.  I think it would be a terrific project with older kids, which is probably what Haring did.  Who’d leave their 5 year old with that guy anyway?

I’m in each classroom about 45 minutes.  When I leave I need a nap and a bourbon.  Kindergarten teachers, my hat is off to you.

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