Tara's Toyland Home Daycare

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Art - process or product or both?

Posted by tarastoyland on August 1, 2015 at 11:40 PM

I love art.  I actually was an art teacher at a school for two years.  I have a minor in art and an art education endorsement.   I love to do art, I love to look at (most) art, I love how there are great stories behind famous art, I love to do artsy things.  

I also firmly believe that art can be used to teach almost every concept there is in early childhood education.  It can tie the curriculum together, it can make all the parts of a lesson become solidly formed in the child's mind.

In the early childhood field there is a debate on what is the way to teach art.  Or if it even should be "taught".  There are three camps usually in this discussion:

1. Art is when things look exactly like the teacher wants them to look.  The goal is to have the children learn how to follow directions and to make parents happy that their child is creating things and that the teacher is 'teaching".  The teacher cuts out all the needed pieces and shoes the children how to put those pieces down to create the desired end result.   Every art project looks the same when it is completed, just like the teachers. I personally call these "cookie cutter art" because they all look the same like cookies come off an assembly line all the same.  Personally there is very little children get out of this type of art.  There is a small place for this in the middle elementary grade levels where you are testing reading comprehension or listening skills but other then that they are nothing but time wasters.  I do not call these art.  They are crafts.  Crafts are where every project looks the same, art is unique and different.  The first creation is art, the copies are crafts.  This has no place in early childhood education in my opinion.  Occassionally I will be given a kit to make foam something or others and will help the children do it.  I tell the parents this is not art, this is my doing something and giving it to the children.  Because the children can not do it themselves usually.  I once had a boy who went to the public preschool for special education classes come home with this type of "art" - all nice glued perfectly when the child couldn't even hold a crayon - obviously there was NO learning going on, and he had nothing to do with the project at all.  It was purely a parent pleaser, and personally if I were the parent I would be the opposite of pleased.

2. Process art - This description is not mine - 

As you can see this is very free form.  Children are given supplies, they create.  I do let children use tape, glue, scissors, markers, crayons, etc. to do whatever they please during free play time.  Process art is all about letting the children discover what the materials can do and not interfering in any way, it is  art where the making of it is more important then the end product - the exploration, the freedom is what is essential.

3. Process art with a Product end -  There is a happy medium, it's not a hard thing to integrate -the children create unique things where they also learn skills and apply other subject area knowledge into their projects and have projects where the parents can recognize what is being taught.  This is the type of art I believe is best to do with preschoolers.  It allows for children to be creative, to do individual unique projects yet have something to take home that is worthy of being put on the fridge.  Pick a theme, any one, now pick something that has to do with that theme (fairy tales - sticks/straw/bricks, bean stalks/beans, crowns/jewels/swords) now pick an art material - paint, crayons, markers, glue/tape/staples, playdough - combine the two things in some manner, or just have them use any art material and then cut the end result into a theme based shape. Process art CAN be representative and still accomplish the goals of art. I was trained as an art teacher, there are reasons to do things that TEACH ART CONCEPTS and still are process art, you can have the end result match your theme, you can TEACH and do process art.   To teach them HOW to do a thing is just as important, no, MORE important then letting them just do whatever... in order to know how to go further with an art concept you need to be shown HOW to use that material. I teach when I do process art and it is STILL process art.  I also apply the lesson of the day to the art project.  When we learn about planets we may learn how to do balls out of playdough to be planets, and snakes out of playdough to be the rings on those planets.  When learning about flower parts we may use an actual flower as our paint brush.  Applying the theme into an art project allows all the subject areas to tie together.


How it works - In order to show how I take a lesson and make it into an art lesson I will show you projects done by the daycare children and I will describe how the process was done, what skills were taught and what lesson was reinforced. 

we were learning about outer space, we talked about how stars aren't really this shape but rather spheres like our sun.  That they were hot balls of gas, and since they were so far away we saw them as just points of light.  We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, counted out stars and talked about how planets are spheres as well.  Then the children got to use small litle nails to push into the hole of the buttons and decorate the star or planet however they decided.  This worked on fine motor skills and while they were working we talked about the sizes of buttons they were using, the colors and when they were all done we counted how many buttons they had used.  Each child had a unique creation as you can see. 


This is crayon melting art. Each child picked out which crayons they wanted and which order to put them in.  After they had put them down in the order they wanted I hot glued them to the canvas.  then we used a hair dryer to melt the crayons.  While they were melting we talked about how the wax got hot and became a liquid.  When it got cold it became a solid again.  This was the xmas present for the parents.

The children painted paper plates that I had cut to be turkey shapes however they wanted to.  After they were done we added google eyes, wattles and beaks.  This day we had read turkey books, looked at pictures of real wild turkeys and learned some other facts about turkeys.

another turkey project we did that day - they painted a paper towel tube, I later cut it to look like a turkey.

we had been studying trees, to make these the children painted their arm and hand then put them onto the paper to be the trunk and branches.  Then they used different colored glues to glue down buttons.

We did these during our Halloween party, this was the first project we did with the nails and buttons and it is one they kept asking to do again which is why we did the stars and planets one.

We were talking about Halloween and how we go door to door saying trick or treat.  The kids were playing pretend trick or treating.  So I came up with this project - we talked about the shapes you see on houses - then I cut out those shapes and they created houses.  The love doing stickers too so I let them go wild with stickers too.   This was a group of 4 yr olds so I also was talking to them about realism - people have to walk on the ground, pumpkins don't just float in the air, bats and birds do go in the air.

We learned about plants, parts of a plant, read plant books, talked about seeds and leaves.  Then the children collected plants in the yard and we came inside and used them to paint with.  The next picture is using a huge leaf they found, I had them paint the leaf then we pressed a piece of paper onto the painted leaf.

I'll add more blog posts later featuring the art work the children create.  I try to do at least one project per day.


Categories: Philosophies, Preschool Ideas, Preschool

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