I’ve written many times before about my success stories using projects from MaryAnn Kohl’s book Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product – enough times that I’ve felt a bit redundant in my praise of Kohl and her book – but yesterday’s experience at storytime was good enough to warrant yet another post on the topic.
With my broken foot, I’ve struggled with how to continue with art projects in the weekly Art & Stories for 4’s & 5’s storytime. Last week, I was still on crutches, so I thought long and hard and finally decided to go with an old standard project: rolls of paper laid out on the floor, kids lie on the paper, adults trace the outline of each child, and then the kids color in their tracings. Huge success! No set up for me – no tables, no stress, the parents did the tracings of the kids – and the kids kept going for forty-five minutes with their artwork. (Of course, this makes total sense, since four and five year olds are still quite self-focused, and working on a self-portrait at that age completely fits their developmental level.)
So last week’s art project was terrific, and I was feeling the pressure yesterday to come up with a similarly awesome project. But I’m still pretty gimpy: off the crutches, but hobbling around on a walking boot that comes up almost to my knee. I knew I would be able to drag some tables out of the closet, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to sort through our stacks and stacks of awesome art supplies in order to set up a complex project. What to do??!?!
A paper-only project seemed in order (especially since my coworker Carol, a recently retired teacher, had just donated three grocery bags full of the most gorgeous construction paper I have ever seen), so I opened up Kohl’s book, flipped to January’s projects as a starting point, and ka-bam. There it was: Little Books. The only prep necessary was to use the paper cutter to cut some white copy paper down to half size, and also to cut some sheets of construction paper down to half size, and then I dug out pencils, markers, and some staplers. The idea (without giving away Kohl’s project instructions – you REALLY should buy her book if you don’t already own it!) was to have the kids and their grownups work together to construct a little book. Then the grownups stepped back and let the kids create the insides of the books.
Before we started on the project, I talked to the group about the process they would be going through. One wise little boy, upon hearing that he would be creating a book, said, “But I don’t know how to write words!!!!” And so I talked about how there are many wonderful books that tell their stories only with pictures, no words. Perhaps, I suggested, if the kids knew how to write their names, they could do that, but otherwise they could just fill up the pages with pictures.
And they did. And they kept going and going and going. Some kids talked out loud as they created, telling anyone who would listen what their book was about, while other kids hunched over their creations so that no one could spy on their artwork as it was in process. We started the project at 2:25, and several kids were still going strong at 3:15…and they would have kept going for quite a while if it hadn’t been time to pick up their older siblings at the elementary school. Only a reassurance that there were markers and pencils at home to use kept these last artists from having a meltdown at having to step away from their book before it was finished.
Another huge success. Now to find another project for next week that meets the criteria of helping a gimpy librarian run a great art project. Thankfully, I have the resource to find that awesome project!