Sunday, August 30, 2020

Growing As An Artist

Early Childhood Learners

For early childhood learners art serves as a way to communicate their understanding of themselves and the world. Children at this age are striving to understand the world around them and need experiences that allow for learning exploration and discovery. Children need to learn about the process of making art rather than the creation of a finished product.

Suggestions for early learners:

  • Use large pencils, crayons and brushes that are easy to grasp.
  • Broaden use of materials to include those things that require more fine motor coordination.
  • Provide tactile materials for them to use.
  • Have them "show & tell" about their artworks.
  • Have them finger paint.
  • Play with homemade play doughs.

Early learners are able to:

  • Use gross motor skills over fine motor coordination
  • Learn through active exploration involving lots of physical activity.
  • Make art in a kinesthetic way rather than working realistically.
  • Pay attention for shorts periods of time, so they need a variety of art activities to sustain their interest. 


The word Kindergarten means "garden for children". The art room can be a wonderful place to help children grow. Allow kindergarteners to play, explore and experiment with art materials. Play is how children explore the external world and discover their own skills and abilities. Play allows children to communicate complex ideas and messages that would be otherwise impossible due to their lack of verbal skills. Kindergartners are enthusiastic and eager to learn. They are unable to sustain any activity for a long period of time. Proved children with opportunities to draw often and give them assistance and the encouragement they require. Let them make drawings about themselves and their personal experiences. As kindergarteners become increasingly aware of the world around them, the many objects that make up their environment will begin to appear in their artworks. Rather than drawing what something actually looks like, they tend to draw what they know about the person, place or object. Show new skills and techniques step-by-step and allow for repeated opportunities to practice newly acquire skills. 

Kindergarteners are able to:

  • Identify and draw different lines.
  • Recognize and draw basic shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, ovals and triangles. 
  • Identify the colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
  • Identify dark and light colors.
  • Compare things that are alike and different.
  • Create patterns by repetition of shapes, lines or colors.
  • Begin to use a variety of art tools.
  • Able to grasp drawing materials and brushes.
  • Able to finger paint.
  • Recognize different art materials.
  • Talk about their own art and that of others.
  • Cut on a drawn line.

Suggestions for Kindergarteners:

  • Provide a variety of materials to allow for free expression of ideas.
  • Use large sized paper to allow children who are still developing their fine motor skills to make a big gesture.
  • Use large crayons and markers.
  • Paint with large brushes at the easel.
  • Cut straight and curved lines with developmentally shaped scissors.
  • Manipulate clay to form a ball to be flattened, rolled, squeezed, and pinched.
  • Provide building blocks to construct sculptures.
  • Provide beads to string.
  • Use dot markers, stamps and sponges to do printmaking. 
  • Demonstrate how to draw a heart, star, and diamond shape. 

1st & 2nd Graders

Children at this age are very excited to learn new things. They love lessons that are full of activity and fun. They have big imaginations and enjoy fantasy and make believe. They like to depict subjects that are familiar to them like the people, animals, and places around them. At this age children are moving from an egocentric outlook to an awareness that there is a bigger world out there. 

1st & 2nd Graders are able to:

  • Follow a series of drawing steps.
  • Describe various types of lines.
  • Recognize and draw geometric and organic shapes.
  • Recognize basic forms like spheres, cones, cubes, and cylinders in their surroundings.
  • Create patterns by repetition of shapes, lines, or colors.
  • Identify details and add them to drawings and sculptures.
  • Trace templates.
  • Create more realistic looking artworks.
  • Begin to understand scale and size relationships.
  • Cut, tear, curl, fringe and fold paper.
  • Mix primary colors to make secondary colors and make colors darker or lighter.
  • Express personal tastes and preferences in their art.
  • Identify art mediums. 
  • Distinguish between realistic and abstract styles of art.
  • Analyze similarities and differences.
  • Learn and use art vocabulary.
  • Construct 3-dimensional sculptures.
  • Sculpt in clay.
  • Recognize and describe differences in textures.

Suggestions for 1st & 2nd Graders:

  • Provide time to discover, experiment with, and manipulate new tools and media.
  • Provide different kinds of painting experiences so that children can experiment with different techniques.
  • Teach them to observe and really see their subjects.
  • Model how to use a reference.
  • Show different artists artworks from both the past and present day.
  • Discuss proportions of the human body.
  • Teach contour drawing.
  • Draw from real life.
  • Follow step-by-step directions.
  • Provide templates for difficult to draw shapes.

3rd & 4th Graders

Children at this age are very social with their peers. They are successfully able to work independently and in groups. They have begun to develop an artistic eye and can see details in people, animals, places and things around them. Children this age will begin to experiment with representing things as they really appear. They will be interested in drawing things realistically and may get frustrated at times when they are not able to do so. They will begin to compare their artworks to others. They prefer realistic artworks because they are easier to understand than abstract pieces. They can also distinguish between genres of art such as portraits, animals, and landscapes. As the child's understanding of the world in general is expanding, his or her understanding of the world of art can expand as well. Instruction can expand to introduce children to art history, aesthetics and art criticism. 

3rd & 4th Graders are able to:

  • Cut well with scissors.
  • To fold, attach, curl, and weave paper.
  • Identify different media.
  • Mold forms and coils out of clay.
  • Add details to the subjects used in their artworks.
  • Draw people with correct proportions and gestures.
  • Identify genres and styles of art.
  • Identify art mediums such as glazes, fibers, wood and found objects.
  • Use a variety of tools due to increased fine motor control.
  • Mix tints, tones and shades.
  • Explain basic perspective using foreground, middle ground, and background.

Suggestions for 3rd & 4th Graders:

  • Have children engage in observational drawing from real life or reference photographs.
  • Explain facial and body proportions. 
  • Explain basic perspective rules.
  • Define color schemes like primary/secondary, warm/cool, harmonious/contrasting.
  • Demonstrate how to mix tints, tones and shades.
  • Show different styles of art.
  • Define different ways to achieve balance - symmetrical,  asymmetrical and radial.
  • Explain different types of patterns using rhythms like regular, alternate and random. 

5th & 6th Graders

Children at this age are starting to become aware of social structures from small groups at school to larger ones on a global level. They tend to separate themselves into boy and girl groups. They are developing a sense of self, with their own likes and dislikes. They will begin to develop their own sense of style and will have idols in the media world. They are interested in making art about themselves and their own personal interests. They often become very critical of their inadequacies when making works of art. Some will lose their confidence in their artistic ability because they cannot make things the “right” way. Some will quit making art altogether if they are judged too harshly by others or themselves. Others will own the title of being an “artist” and devote time to creating art. They will be proud of themselves if their work is displayed or wins an award. Their fine motor skills will allow them to work with a wide range of tools and materials. They will be able to concentrate for longer periods of time on their work. 

5th & 6th Graders are able to:

  • Draw with a variety of art materials.
  • Identify values and add shading to their drawings.
  • Add details to the subjects used in their artworks.
  • Draw people with more details, correct proportions and gestures.
  • Understand viewpoints such as: front, side, rear, bird’s eye, worm’s eye, distant and close up.
  • Identify positive and negative shapes.
  • Understand that the history of art has a past and present.and gestures.
  • Understand viewpoints such as: front, side, rear, bird’s eye, worm’s eye, distant and close up.
  • Identify positive and negative shapes.
  • Understand that the history of art has a past and present.
  • Identify hues, values of colors and color schemes.
  • Recognize artworks based on their style.
  • Identify different subjects in art.
  • Do many steps in the art making process at one time.
  • Use scissors, hole punchers, and sewing needles.
  • Form pinch pots, roll clay coils and form clay slab constructions.
  • Paint with watercolor, tempera and acrylic paints.
  • Sew, appliqué, weave fibers, do beading and tie-dye.
  • Assemble cardboard, wood, plastics, and other found materials.

Suggestions for 5th & 6th Graders:

  • Help them to improve their art skills so they will have the confidence to continue learning about art. 
  • Show how to compose a picture.
  • Explain how to create depth in a picture.
  • Explain how to perceive, analyze and judge works of art.
  • Encourage children to research subject matter that interests them.
  • Provide drawing lessons that include shading techniques, gesture, contour drawing and implied texture.
  • Explain perspective drawing that includes changes in scale, overlapping shapes, size changes from big to small, and colors from darkest to lightest.
  • Expose them to art from different cultures.
  • Tell them about the history of art.
  • Tell them about living artists that are currently creating works of art.
  • Explain the meaning of symbols used in artworks.
  • Do fine motor skills projects like origami, and sewing.

Gifted & Talented

Children use art as a personal visual language to communicate about themselves and the world around them. As they get older, they typically rely less on visual communication and more on verbal abilities to express their ideas and understandings. Some children however are uncommonly skilled artistically. There are certain indications of possible artistic talent in some children. 

A child that has artistic talent:

  • Pays very close attention to details.
  • Has an extreme interest to draw in as realistic a manner as possible.
  • Seeks perfectionism. 
  • Has a big imagination and ability to generate many ideas.
  • Has a story line in artworks. 
  • Researches their own subject matter.
  • Is intrinsically motivated to create art.
  • Experiments with media and techniques.
  • Is highly skilled at using art mediums and tool.s
  • Does not have the need to copy.
  • Is highly sensitive to one or more elements of art, like colors, space, or textures.
  • Shows integration of thinking, perceiving and feeling.

Written By Art Teacher Ruth Post

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