Friday, March 4, 2011

Kindergarten Forum

The one thing I love about blogging and following all the great art blogs online today is the wonderful connection I feel with art teachers, not just across the country, but  also across the world.  It's an amazing thing that the touch of a key can open windows into art rooms in Brazil, or Australia, or the UK or anywhere.  It's an amazing thing to look at the map behind the dashboard and  see people coming together from all over the world.

So I thought today I might tap into all that energy and post a question for the blogging community concerning kindergarten art.  I'm especially interested in what works for you.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but to me, kindergarten is THE MOST challenging class to teach. (Probably stems from an especially traumatic student teaching experience with kindergarten, which in hindsight is hilarious, but I'll save that for another post).  Anyway, in my particular case, in one of my schools, I teach art on-the-cart, which is difficult at best.  The kindergarten class is relatively large.  And the room is arranged in a very awkward way for art.  (No great place to hang art examples where all kids can see them.  Tables of varying sizes arranged all around the room, difficult to see all the kids and for them to see me. No good place to do a step by step demonstration for kids, etc.  I have a 50 minute class and some kids are finished way before that.  Passing out materials and collecting everything at the end art is chaotic, and behavior is not great.)

I feel like I've been bumping along, waiting for things to get better, but clearly things are not where I'd like them to be.  I've tried working as a whole group and in centers with this group, but in each case, things kind of fell apart, and I'm looking to take this class in a new direction.

So my question is this, what is your experience with kindergarten art?  Please share.  I'd also love some input on great Kindergarten lesson plans, because I'm always struggling to keep it simple, yet engaging.  Does anyone else teach K on the cart?  What's your experience?  I'd just love to hear everything near and far about kindergarten, because I want to get better at this.

Thanks for listening.  I'm going to share two very interesting kindergarten links.
I found this post which lead me to
And then...there's always this...., where I hear congratulations are in order!


  1. I teach on a cart as well and I find that the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes are difficult on a cart. You are right, the seating arrangements can be somewhat bizarre. For this reason, I will often have the kindergartners sit on the front rug before going to their seat. This way, I can either read a story, show examples, and explain the project while they are right in front of me. In cases where the classroom is not set up so they can see the board, I will often tape examples to my cart and wheel my cart from table to table so they can all see.

  2. First of all, I love you blog! Especially the videos you use with your lessons. I have used several of them. The group circle paintings have been my favorite lesson I have taught all year.

    I was on the cart for a year and
    had a difficult time in kindergarten as well. I would sometimes use clip boards made from shower board (you can get this and have it cut at your local hardware store) and big binder clips. The great thing about shower board is that it doubles as a dry erase board. I would gather the kids at the rug and teach as much of the lesson as I could from there.

  3. Ugh. Art on a cart is always tough. I do think that I would still try centers with that group, though. I do feel a bit rushed some days, but they have such short attention spans, anyway. Kids are always busy this way. Noone is bored. The key for me was to keep the centers simple. Good luck!

  4. I'm not on a cart, but I agree with you that the K's are the most challenging to plan for, my least favorite grade to teach. Maybe it's because I taught high school art for 9 years before I became an elementary art teacher? To me they are "tadpoles" - not fully developed, and you never know when someone is going to cry, pee on the floor, mess up the paint colors, and especially, respond to questions with completely out-of-context answers.
    There's a pre-K class in my school, and I am very thankful that someone decided not to schedule them to come for art, as that strikes fear in my heart. I can't imagine what I'd do with them.

  5. Thanks for the shout out! I hope my post and others like it are helping.
    I did have to be on a cart for two days because of the SACS accreditation that used my room as the interview room. I had a Kinder class and Pre-k class in my schedule those days. I prepared and took a look at the room the day before. Students were already broken up into groups. So I just used each table as a group. There were 5 tables, but I separated the kids to just 4 tables. They don't have to be seated.... One table was the "Project Table" that would watch and create the project together. And the other 3 were simple do-it-yourself centers. 10 minutes each. Preparation is the key. Ask the teacher if he or she could have the kids in their new groups before you arrive.
    Hope this helps.

  6. I used to teach kindergarten art on a cart. That is by far the toughest class to deal with on a cart. I've never been in one kindergarten class that worked well with teaching art.

    From that experience I realized that once the kids go to tables, they are no longer going to pay much attention to instruction. I teach as much as possible on the carpet or in circle time. There are a fair number of lessons that the kids do sitting right there. They go to their tables for the messy parts...painting...coloring...gluing.

    I do lots of fingerplays and singing to bring them in at the beginning of class. You'll find a lot of those over at my video

    I also created a blog for preschool art and kindergarten art, because there seems to be so little curriculum out there for them that I like.

    The school where I teach now has the instructional assistants remain with us during art. What a tremendous blessing that is!

  7. Oops. Forgot to give the link to my preschool and kindergarten blog:

  8. A big thank you to everyone who took a moment to chime in on kindergarten art. A lot of great ideas out there a I really appreciate your input. I woke up this morning so excited to get started with all these new and wonderful ideas and guess what? SNOWDAY! NO SCHOOL! Kindergarten will have to wait one more day.

    Angie, and Becca Ruth, I am going to try centers again with this group using your simplified approach. I have high hopes that this will be key.

    Jacqueline! I love your blog as well and get so many good ideas from you. I can't stop thinking about your clowns lately and am going to try to fit it in before year's end:)
    Can you tell I use my blog is a convenient place to park videos that I know I'll be showing soon? I never stress, because I always know where to find them. I'm glad you are enjoying them and I totally agree about Circle Painting. So much fun. I'm hoping to do another one in the spring.

    Here's what I think. Clip boards are good. Dry erase boards a fun. But dry erase clip boards are the bomb! You should market that idea.

    Holly--I would love to see your set up. I'll post a pic of my cart later this week. I actually have two carts and drying rack. The drying rack rolls on a set of skateboard wheels. Very handy.

    Phyl, I'm with you. I think K is the hardest group to plan for and to teach. Part of it is seeing them just once a week. Not enough time to develop the kind of bond a classroom teach has with them.

    Jan I love your videos. And have found so much good stuff there! I'll have to stop by Art for Itty Bittys, I haven't been there in a few weeks. Thanks for the reminder.

    Can't wait to get started.


  9. I have a difficult time with kindergarten as well. I find that the skill level of the kids varies incredibly as does the attention span. I live in a high-poverty area and many of the kindergarteners have not had preschool or much (if any) learning experiences at home. I stuggle with trying to find lessons that are engaging to those with more advanced skills yet simple enough for those who have never seen a marker let alone a paintbrush! The first 9 weeks I keep it VERY simple. All our lessons focus on identifying shapes and colors. The second 9 weeks is usually spent in materials exploration. We practie crayon and marker techniques, scissor and glue practice and work our way up to paint. The second half of the year is when we start to do more "projects". I keep the projects fairly small to start. 12x18 and even 9x12 can be too much for many kids. I also try to do projects that we can complete from start to finish in a single class period. Each class begins with "Floor Time". We gather at the front of the room and I use this time to share images, books, artworks and to give materials demonstrations. This is a good opportunity to teach kids the difference between asking a question and telling a story. If they start to tell a story I interrupt and ask if they have soemthing to ask or some thing to tell. If they dont know or continue to tell a story I will say "This sounds like a story. You may finish telling me about it after class." I give the same response if the question is not related to the lesson. Additionally I usually limit responses to questions I ask to three. Otherwise everyone and their brother will have to "one-up" the previous response. After floor time the children move to their seats to complete the activity. In order to keep kids on track I often give step-by-step instruction and only allow them to go on to the next step when I say they can. This prevents many from rushing through and then causeing a distraction to the class. After the entire activity is finished (and we almost always finsh faster than I expect us to) we come back to the floor for a wrap up. Students bring their artworks and we discuss what we did and why. IF any time remains I give a few a chance to share their artwork with the class and tell about thier pictures. I put a dot by the name of each child who has shared in the past in my book so everyone eventually gets a chance. I love the Ed Emberly books as well as the books in the "Doodles for Lunch" series and find that these make great STARTING POINTS for kindergarten lessons.

  10. Barb,

    I am not the Jacquelien from Kids Artists blog. Although I do enjoy her blog as well! I am actually fairly new to the blogging world and am just an avid reader at this point. I do hope to start an art teaching blog someday though.

    Best of luck with those kindergartners!


  11. Sorry Jacqueline, I just assummed...
    such a beautiful and uncommon name.

    Julie, I really like your tip about supporting kids in learning the difference between a question and a story, and staying on topic. So very right on the money with this group. I know I'll think of you an smile as I use your technique this week.

    I have gone back to center based art and it went well last week. I'm really trying to hold the line with them and wait until I get what I want. As Mrs. Hahn mentioned, sometimes it feels very much like herding cats. Kids at all ability levels. Very challenging. It's amazing how by first grade things start to level out.

    Thanks so much for your insights. I'm taking it all in.


  12. I have had so many issues that you all have had with K. I am on a cart at 2 schools teaching 1,300 students. K is by far the most challenging. But I think that you must teach the way you teach the other levels because then when they come to you in first grade, there is no learning curve. Try some braingym when you see them getting restless. Or simon says. I have them touching as many things as possible but they must follow directions or else you just get sloppy work that looks like nothing. Check out some things I do with my kiddos:) Good luck. Love your ideas by tht eway, too cool:)

  13. Thanks for the nice comments about my blog. I have the same issues with kinders too. Many many cry and cry when they can't do something or they have such huge behavior problems, that the class gets out of hand really quickly. Teaching 1,300 students I could never do centers. I can't carry it all in my cart but I would love to see some pics of who you set this up on a cart. Post some pics and let us know:) Thanks girl!