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  • Meredith Blackerby

The Little Guys

When I first set out to start with TAB, there was one big roadblock that was particularly difficult to sidestep. What to do with the little guys?

I teach Kindergarten - 6th Grade and, if you are a teacher, you know all too well that you cannot teach all of these students the same way. The developmental difference between a kindergartener and a 6th grader (even a Kindergartener and a 2nd Grader!) is astounding. So I couldn't possibly expect the same level of responsibility from all of these students.

I finally came to the decision that I would not introduce full-choice until 2nd Grade. 2nd Graders have had enough experience in school to understand what is expected of them and how to mostly make good choices in the art room. They are also (usually) at a reading level that allows them to read the signs and directions at the studios.

So what to do with the Kindergarteners and 1st graders? I knew that they would need more direction and guidance than the older students. But I also didn't want to completely restrict them. I see these first two years as the perfect opportunity to prepare them for the amount of responsibility they will have in their future years.

The best way to prepare them for choice-art is to familiarize them with the routines and expectations, teach them about the process of art, and fill their little heads with as many ideas as possible. I find that my older students often find inspiration for their art in projects from their younger years in the art room.

I choose projects for the little ones that encourage them to make small choices. This is a nice way to ease them into choice-art. I always have a handful of older students who get overwhelmed by their options and have trouble pinpointing exactly what they want to do. So being able to give them a small taste of this level of responsibility early on makes the transition much smoother.

For this particular project (pictured above) we were talking about paper weaving. I showed them how to do paper weaving and we reviewed lines and patterns from earlier in the year. I gave them time to try out their weaving on a practice loom before starting on the "real thing".

When it came to start on the actual project, each student was allowed to choose the color of their loom (I cut it for them to streamline the process). And then they were allowed to pick the colors and patterns of their weaving strips. I told them they could create any kind of pattern that they wanted. This way, they are using the required skill, but are still being given the freedom to explore the different colors and the patterns they can make with them.

It's this type of small choice that starts building their confidence as an independent artist. They will continue to grow in their creativity as they are given more opportunities to explore, make mistakes, and make choices that reflect their taste.

***PSA: Not all teachers limit choice to the older grades. I have met many a TAB teacher who starts choice right at the beginning. It's all about knowing your students and what they are capable of as well as WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF. Don't push yourself too far, too fast. Ease into it and don't be afraid to make changes when necessary.

The biggest thing to remember is that you know what's best for your students. So get out there and do it!

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