After my last column on process art, it sparked even more conversation about other salient points on process art in a child-centered classroom. Inevitably, the topic of worksheets arises. The parent I spoke with last month mentioned that her friend’s daughter came home with worksheets; they were simple – just two shapes on a page. The teacher in the class read the directions aloud from the page and the children drew a circle under the square. The neighbor was proudly showing off the “school work” her child had completed at school.
Worksheets appear in the early childhood setting in many shapes, forms and fashions. Oftentimes, they are presented in a direct-teach situation, meaning a teacher sits in front of the group, reads a prompt, and the children are instructed to complete a task. There is typically a clear, end-product for the children to copy or recreate. Teachers may also select them to support a theme. If a teacher has selected a theme such as apples, they may copy the outline of an apple for the children to color. Pages are set out with red and green crayons for the children to color. For many schools, it serves as the art project to support the theme.
Children will the complete worksheets as set forth. However, they may be thinking, well, I like pink lady apples, but the teacher only provided green and red crayons. One child thinks of apples as tan, as she likes dried apples. Another child recently discovered the seeds in the core of an apple, but no brown crayons are available for use that day. Rather, FUMP uses open-ended art principles, allowing children to create art that is representative of their own unique experiences, encompassing the length and breadth of their knowledge of apples – not limited outcomes with only one right answer.
At FUMP, we create more authentic experiences for children. Teachers select more dynamic materials to encourage hands on learning through the five senses: taste, touch, sight, sound and feel. We would skip the flat one-dimensional image on a page and seek other ways to engage children. Stamping with apples cut in half, a tasting project of types of apples, planting apple seeds are all projects that I have seen done in our classrooms this fall.
Will children be expected to complete these types of activities in elementary school? Absolutely. And that type of activity should be reserved until children reach the appropriate age to do so. Milestones such as following multi-step directions, comprehending the principle of written symbols are represent the spoken word, understanding reading foundations (page orientation, left to right), attention span, and more. You will see some worksheets with pre-selected shapes on our art shelves. They are one choice out of a wealth of creative materials in the classroom.
One side note, a dozen children in a classroom could not possibly be developmentally ready for the direct teach activity at the same time. As a child centered program, the last thing we want to do is set up a child to fail. When open-ended materials are used, children who are ready for more can do more. When teachers pick out crafty projects and worksheets that may be cute and pleasing to adults, they fail to capture the wonder and curiosity of early childhood, and fail to allow for individual differences among children. We seek to support children in their development, at their own rate and pace.
Thanks for your support of FUMP and our child-centered philosophy. Your children thank you too!
Want to learn more about FUMP curriculum and activities? Check out the FUMP DIRECTOR’S BLOG.