I learnt this approach to observational line-and-form drawing from our PGCE art teacher. My inner art-snob initially bristled at the idea of just 'copying' other drawings instead of drawing 'from life' but I'm now a firm convert. Drawing has a central role in the Foundation Phase with the biggest emphasis placed on imaginative drawing. Children are expected to draw themselves, their friends, families, homes and holidays, animals and adventures - all predominantly from their heads.
Many enjoy this, some don't. Most become suspicious after a while, seeing the world in its complexity, they start to doubt their capacity to render it at all. The 'I can't draw that' mantra lands on the lips and sometimes solidifies in the heart, hands and gut for a lifetime. From what I've seen, little emphasis is placed on helping children to develop the observational and rendering skills required to actually 'learn to draw'.
I have learnt to love these black and white line drawings, because they give my students a way to connect SEEING and DRAWING, to connect their eyes' work and their hands' work in an accessible way. Rendering the 3-Dimensional world into 2D is a truly complex skill, rendering 2D to 2D is complex still but it is also much simpler. You don't have to see round corners, you don't have to flatten the world onto your page.
What I really wanted to say in this post is that my heart always soars to see the beautiful linework many children produce in these sessions, but there are also always students for whom this activity is quite upsetting and even traumatic, for whom the 'I can't draw that' mentality has already taken hold. In considering teacher self-esteem this week, this drawing session today made me mindful of my students' self-esteem. If I value drawing-as-learning, which I truly do, how can I help my students draw confidence from drawing - especially for those whose perception of the world is already one in which they feel inadequate?
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This activity rocks for so many reasons. I especially love it because it shows the versatility of paper and its potential for making 3-dimensional creations. I love how practically and expressively it allows children to explore line and form, the flat but pliable paper strips bent and twisted into extra-ordinary shapes and arranged in energetic compositions. It is accessible, inexpensive and most of all really, really fun.
This is an idea that I originally saw on Pinterest and there are many iterations all over the web, so it is very hard to tell where it originated. Practically it is very easy to execute. I cut some fresh paper strips, but also collected off-cuts over the months, whenever I trimmed card for other projects.
This was my second year trying it and while it was successful and fun last year too, my impression was that this year my students took to it more daringly, with far less reliance on my guidance. I can't pin down exactly why this might be. Perhaps I explained and demonstrated the activity more clearly? Comparing pedagogical approaches from year to year can be difficult because there are so many factors at play - just having a different bunch of kids can have a huge impact on how an activity is taken up.
It was also interesting to notice a few high achieving students who were really anxious to be given such open-ended instruction and for whom the freedom to play and create equated to a scary uncertainty. And at the same time, some students who struggle tremendously with traditional school work, especially fine-motor control, took to it with joyful gusto.
To me this kind of activity forms an essential part of a balanced early years program and it is especially important because it reaches kids who don't thrive at more structured, traditional school activities.
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A daunted but determined teacher irons out the creases of her brain.