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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Are your preschoolers loving the process?

I spend a great deal of time researching activities and ideas for the classroom and often come across the cutest ideas but then I try to visualize how much of the activity my preschool age students would actually be able to do.

Sometimes, the way an art activity looks online isn't exactly how they turn out in the classroom. For example, the snowman head shown above didn't quite look the same as the ones pictured in the post at

Here are our final snowmen...

Probably wouldn't make the cover of a magazine! But guess which set of snowmen I love the most? We were not shooting for the outcome we were loving the process.

Learning is in the process
When looking at ideas for your preschool classroom, don't just consider how cute the end result will be. Take a minute to visualize what your students will actually get to do. The actual learning takes place in the doing, not in the outcome.

Who is learning here?
I recently visited a preschool classroom where the children were making reindeer heads out of construction paper. The teacher, who was very gentle and kind, directed just about every move the children made.
  • The teacher sprinkled on the glitter - the children did get to tap the end of the bottle as she held it.
  • The teacher positioned the construction paper pieces on the paper - the children did get to put on the glue.
  • The teacher let the children put the stickers on for the eyeballs and then repositioned them so they all were in the correct place.
In the end, there were 10 little reindeer all looking pretty much the same but how much of the process did the children get to take part in?

I would have loved to see how these reindeer would have looked if the children would have been able to make them all by themselves. I bet they would have been a hoot and a fun topic of conversation for parents. The teacher could have titled the paper "My Reindeer," possibly even show them how to make one, and then let the children have at it.

The next time you plan an activity -  it is fine to choose something cute but then think "Process" not "Outcome".

Want to see more snow people? Click here!


Teacher Tom said...

We make a distinction between "arts" and "crafts." A craft is an activity that has a predetermined outcome. An art is when we provide materials and let the children use them to create what they will. We very rarely undertake crafts.

If we want the kids to at least try using the materials in a particular way, I like to start the project by having my oldest kids try it first, perhaps with an example to emulate (although they always have the option to do what they want). Then the next day when they're in class with the younger kids they can teach what they've learned.

We turn out a lot of muddy, gray and brown art, but it all passes through a beautiful phase as part of the process.

Freddae' said...

The snowmen is a great idea for active and imaginative minds. Plus, I'm sure the ones weren't done by the precious hands of toddlers. I'm well beyond my toddler years and I couldn't pull off that picture. I'm glad you had fun with it and that you have such a great perspective about the outcome.

jenny said...

I posted recently about making soap balls with my preschoolers and showed how they ended up looking like nothing in the picture - ours had bits of twig and grass sticking out all over the place. More exfoliant than soap :) I always try to think carefully about the processes involved in any craft activity to see how much the kids will get out of it: with the soap there was grating, picking herbs, sloshing it all around together - all processes that the kids loved. Really, they could care less about the soap ball at the end.

I think Christmas has a lot to answer for in teacher directed, closed ended craft activities :)

Graphics Sisters said...

These look SO cute and fun!
(Just now found your comment on Graphics Sisters. Feel free to use our clip art on your blogs! Thanks for asking.) Have a great day.

Linda said...

This is so true! I have a staff member that gets so irritated when the kids color a picture only to put it in the trash when they're done. I've tried explaining to her that it's the process, the experience of doing it that the child enjoys not the finished product. All she sees is the 'waste' of resources.
I worked for a preschool director that only did craft type pictures to impress the parents. Maybe it's the parents that need to be educated about process art as much as teachers.

Deborah J. Stewart said...

Yes, for sure the parents need educated as well! As far as throwing papers away, that is too bad - I hate to see children's work, regardless of the outcome, just get tossed. Any resource used to give children opportunities to explore, create, learn, discover, and so on has not been wasted:-)

Launa Hall said...

When I was a substitute preschool teacher, the teacher would get a little frustrated with me that the projects the children did with me, in her absence, were so much messier than what she meant them to be...I just refused to hold the paint brush for them, or "correct" their placement of elements. I gave simple directions and let them go. And if a child was wandering outside the "directions", but clearly he or she was exploring something worthwhile, I let he or she go with it and see what happened. We always made big messes--but we had a good time and we always cleaned up!

Centers and Circle Time said...

Regardless of the outcome, could you imagine having your hard work tossed? What if someone erased all of your blogs or better yet your bank erased all your transactions! Yikes! I make it a habit to "show off" all of our work before sending it home and even then I "encourage" my parents to post it on the fridge. I work harder when someone appreciates my work...I think preschoolers feel the same.

Scott Wiley said...

We decorated frames last week. I mentioned to my wife that one thing was certain--you could tell that the kids did them themselves. Some of the photos were askew and one boy even taped his picture to the front of the frame so the tape was visible. But I wouldn't want it any other way.

As far as tossing work - I allow a child to toss something if he chooses. After all, it is his work and his choice. However, I usually ask if I can take it home if he doesn't want to do so. Now I have a nice file of children's art.

Deborah J. Stewart said...

Scott - you have so many great ideas - I always enjoy when you add your perspectives and ideas to my posts!

Linda said...

Re: tossing children's art work--
When I posted this earlier I was referring to the children choosing to toss the art work, not the adults. More often than not the children do give the art work to someone or ask to have it put up. We put a couple bulletin boards up at the child's level for the children to display their work whenever they want. The staff member in question doesn't see the point of a child scribbling on a paper just for the sake of doing it. The child is enjoying the colors and the fun of new markers. The staff member just sees the ink and the paper as going to waste.

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