This week I've observed a lot of posts about teaching kindergarten and preschool art. I totally understand why folks feel frustrated teaching this group. For years, I felt like I was "herding cats" during that time. It was by far my least favorite group. My boyfriend even reminded me of that fact this week. I love teaching those kids now.
One of the reasons that my love of "itty bitties" has increased is because I no longer teach art on a cart. Trying to adapt a kindergarten classroom to an art classroom for 45 minutes is horrible. Fifth graders, you can teach while they are sitting at tables. Kinders, you cannot. Or, I could not. I find that I need them up close and personal to keep their attention. And what teachers want you doing a paint, clay or glue lesson on their special carpets that they use for circle time? They certainly don't want their kiddos using those supplies there. Who would blame them? Yet, once the kids are released to their tables to work there, you lose control. And setting up paint, glue or clay in someone else's room every hour? Insane. Let's don't even start with cleanup. Oye vay!
Another thing that greatly improved the quality of my teaching in kindergarten, was moving to a school where the administration required the instructional assistants to remain with the class during art. I remember my first year of teaching art, I had a class of 24 kindergarteners in a high poverty school, and I had them all by myself. Early in the year, one exceedingly busy little fellow ran around the class trying to engage me in a game of "catch me." When he headed out the door and did cart wheels down the hall, I had to figure out whether to chase him or stay with the other 23. And I didn't even know the child's name. If I had a partner in the classroom, someone could have helped me out. (I think I yelled down the hall to some passing teacher and they intercepted the kid.)
When I have a class of itty bitties, I lead them into my class by having them follow me in a "follow the leader" line, of which I am the leader. We do hand and body motions as we sing our way to the taped lines in the front of the class. We walk down the lines directly to the spots where they will sit.
I start the lesson with a circle time activity. I welcome the kids and then sing some song or do some fingerplay with them. They love this time and it brings us together.
Afterwards, I teach the lesson right there on the floor. I project images right onto the SmartBoard behind me and do the demonstration right in the floor. Some lessons, the kids work right in the floor. Others, we do as much as we can together and then I send them to the tables.
At their tables, I have the students standing up. I feel as though they are less distractable if they are standing. They are using more energy standing than sitting. I find it greatly cuts down on behavior problems.
Oddly enough, I find that the problems I used to have in the very low ends of primary art, I have now in first grade. They no longer have instructional assistants and I am alone with them. This is where I am not feeling strong, at this point. Whether it is them or me, something needs to change. I'm thinking that I may need to start teaching this class more in the same manner that I do my kinders. But anyway, this blog is about the younger ones.
I'll write more about the actual management of my primary classes as I think of things. I'm really happy with how those classes are going these days though.