Observation During Easel Painting

During my research into effective education methods I have read a lot about observation. I have even tried to incorporate it into the classroom, which can sometimes be difficult when you do not have a co-teacher in the classroom. This past week I have been trying to put together developmental portfolios for the children in my classroom, so I was prompted to put together some observations of the children as they painted at the easel.

What an eye-opener that was! I literally stood behind the children as they painted, as inconspicuously as I could. I had notebook and pen in hand, writing vigorously about everything I saw; from the colors used, to the types of brush strokes used, to the words being spoken as the child painted. Not only was it interesting to actually “see” what the child was doing, but I got several ideas for projects that will continue their explorations.

For example, one child used her finger to trace patterns in the paint that she had applied to the paper with her brush. This inspired me to include a printing project for next week in which the children will apply paint to the table top, use their fingers to make patterns in the paint, and make prints of those patterns. Another child concentrated on mixing the colors and observing the affects. This inspired me to come up with more color mixing projects, as well as making cornstarch and water projects available (I have been looking to do these projects for a while; I just don’t have the right materials for them yet). Still another child approached the easel painting with hesitancy and caution, since it was her first time. This inspired me to make easel painting more available on a day-to-day basis so that she will be more comfortable with the creation process.

One child was very vocal while she was painting, and it was interesting and fun hearing what she was thinking about while she was painting. And since I wrote it all down and plan to put it in her developmental folder, it means that I will have a record of it to look back on. Her parents will treasure this observation as well, I’m sure.

This experiment of mine really paid off and allowed me to see how observation can lead to bigger and better experimentation and exploration in the classroom. When we approach observation seriously and think about it in a way in which it inspires new activities, it becomes an indispensable part of our teaching strategy.

A New Idea for My Table

I posted on my Twitter account recently that I have rather large table in my classroom with an inch-tall lip around the edge. It had been displaying a “Little People” town for the children to play with, but since this type of toy isn’t in line with the policy of the company I work for, and since it does very little to promote actual creativity and imagination in the children who play with it, I took it out of the classroom.

Which left me with a rather large table with an inch-tall lip around the edge.

What in the world was I going to do with this table? First I tried to put rice on the table so that the children could use it to “write” letters, but what actually happened was that the rice ended up on the floor. So I looked at the table and I pondered and eventually I came up with… an art-drying table. Imaginative, huh?

It actually wasn’t too bad of an idea, but what I didn’t like about it was that the table wasn’t really being utilized for anything that would cause the children to learn something or do something. All that was happening was that they were putting their finished art on the table to dry.

And then inspiration struck. What if I put paint on the table instead of rice? Kids LOVE to play in paint, and they can write whatever they want in it and make designs and get their hands dirty!

But that wasn’t the only idea…

My big problem was the lip around the table. That lip was what made every idea that I came up with seemingly impossible. But then I saw a picture in a book of children’s weavings that inspired me. What if I string yarn or ribbon across the top of the table-top, tape it to the outside of the lip with duct tape (the tape would have to be pretty strong so that the kids wouldn’t tear the yarn off while making their creations) and let the children weave yarn or ribbon through it? It could be our weaving table!

I am so excited about this idea that I may try to implement it when I get to school this afternoon. I would do it right now, but unfortunately my own children are getting over being sick, so I’m stuck at home for now.

Kids On Ice

Cover of "Toy Story: An Original Walt Dis...

Cover via Amazon

I heard it as soon as I walked in the door this morning:

“My mom is taking me to see ‘Toy Story on Ice’ tonight after school.”

“I’m going to see ‘Toy Story on Ice’ too!”

“You’re not going with me. My mom is taking me.”

“I’m not going with you – my grandpa is taking me!”

So this was the buzz of the day. It was great, though, because I knew exactly what we could do with this topic:

“How would you like it if we did our own “Disney on Ice”? We could take our shoes off and ‘skate’ around the classroom!”

ALL of the kids were really excited about the idea, until I turn on Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”.

“Ms. Sarah, this is naptime music!” (I love classical music, and we usually listen to it at naptime.)

So I explained to them that it was actually a ballet, and ballerinas dance to these songs. Well, that excited them to no end, so they had fun being skating ballerinas to the music.

We also did another color-mixing project today, and it is another project that I saw on someone else’s blog but forgot which blog I saw it on. I get a lot of different education blogs fed into my reader, and usually I look at them really early in the morning when I have woken up and can’t go back to sleep. But if you recognize the project and know that you were the one who posted it, I hope that you know that I appreciate it to no end!

Anyway, I set out some baby food jars with paint in them, primary colors (I read somewhere that using baby food jars helps the kids because they can see the colors that they are working with, and they can practice using the paint brushes in the smaller jars and not make such a big mess). The kids painted one hand one color and made a handprint on one side of the paper. Then they painted the other hand another color and made a handprint on the other side of the paper. Then they rubbed their hands together until the colors were mixed and made handprints with the mixed colors in the middle. Oh, they loved this project! A lot of them are getting really good at knowing what color they are making when they mix specific colors. But even the ones who knew the colors that they were making wanted to do it over and over and over again. It made the afternoon go by really quickly.

While I was busy monitoring the use of the paint, I noticed some kids earnestly working together in the block area. I called over to them and asked them what they were making. “A house,” they answered. It absolutely warmed my heart that those particular kids were working so well together on that project. It showed me that the the changes that I have made in classroom management and working on projects together has really paid off, and I am so proud of my kids for the work that they are doing!