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Re: pre-school (the critique)


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Aug 14 2002 - 07:50:35 PDT

This is part 2. THE CRITIQUE for preschoolers. My earlier preschool
message gave methods of preschool motivation, topics, and materials that I
use. This is a bit on how I respond to a preschooler.

If you are an art teacher, you already know this stuff, but here is what I
have found to work when responding to their "artwork".

The critique is always only positive at this age. I am the especially
positive when it is their own ideas, no matter how it looks. When they
copy somebody else or follow cute craft project directions, I just get my
quiet smile. Process is where learning takes place and the brain grows.
Products may make some the parent's and grandparents think their child is
learning something, but when I see a whole bunch of similar outcomes I have
to wonder who is doing the thinking and who is learning to be a nice little

I believe their thinking is developed if they are encouraged to talk about
their work. I say, "Oh! could you tell me about this?" or, "How did you
think of this?" I do not say, "What is it?" When responding to their
work, it is important to maintain a positive and enthusiastic inflection
and sincere curiosity on my part. I use lots of short comments like "Wow!"
"Nice bright color!" "This looks like fun" "Nice and big!" "Was that
scary?" "This really shows up well!"

I NEVER CORRECT THEM or show them how to draw something nor how to make
something. At age three or four, you have the privilege to choose your
activity or to refuse to do whatever is unpleasant. If a well-meaning
parent, relative, baby sitter, or teacher starts to correct or "teach"
drawing by showing them how to do it, some simply stop doing their
wonderful self-initiated ideas. They start being more passive and doing
more imitation.

REMEDIAL teaching for preschoolers
I have worked with three-year-olds who only responded with, "You do it." --
wanting me to show them how to draw something. Somebody has drawn things
for them and they have lost all faith in their own ideas and marks. In
most cases I can get them started by saying, "I'm having trouble
remembering how to draw that. Can you show me how to get started?" Yes,
they love to imitate, but adult drawing is not even close to being
appropriate for them to imitate.

A boy, age three, had lost his love of drawing and his mother asked me what
to do. I suggested that she watch me help the boy draw. I found out that
he had a new bike with training wheels. We talked about how he enjoyed it.
 I put down some paper and a pencil and said, "Can you show me the shape of
one of the wheels?" I then asked him what other parts he could remember
about the bike. I had him show me the shapes of other bicycle parts as he
remembered them. Each time he showed me, I gave him affirmation about it.
In the end the bike parts were scattered around the page, but that was just
fine. For his age he had done exceptionally well. I asked if he would
like for me put the words of each part on the paper. Then I asked him to
tell me where to print each word. After watching us, the mother
instinctively knew what she had been doing wrong.

I recall Emily, three years old, who refused every motivation I could think
of to draw, "I am playing with my doll." To every question I asked her,
she just said, "You do it." Finally I said, "Let's do something else. Do
you know how to spin around?" We both started spinning around and I told
her how her spinning so much better than mine. Then I put down a large
sheet of paper and crayon and said, "Would this crayon like to do some
spinning on the paper?" She picked up the crayon and filled the paper with
large circular scribbles. I gave her a clean sheet and said, "Can you make
just one spin on this paper?" She did it. I said, "Wow, is this Emily!?"
"Does Emily like to look at pretty flowers!?" She added two eyes. "Do you
like to eat ice cream with chocolate!?" She added a mouth. "Do you like
to run fast!?" She added two legs to the head. Emily was very capable, but
somebody had given her the idea that she could not draw for herself.
Sometimes showing children this age how to do things can actually create
learning impediments. Our teaching needs to take away the impediments to
learning - not add them.

This web page is a letter to a preschool teacher. It is illustrated with
typical family drawings created in a preschool.

Marvin Bartel