Art and Literacy

You can probably guess that I love literacy just from the name of my blog, but I must say that I REALLY love it.  I love teaching kids reading and writing in all of the different ways we accomplish that in education (Guided Reading, comprehension strategies, Writer’s Workshop, and much more).  There are so many different aspects to literacy and getting kids excited about books is one of those important elements that happens in the early stages of literacy development.  Most kids love to draw, and if they don’t I want to help them find that love!  They will spend many years sketching out stories as part of their story-mapping process and then writing their stories to share with their classmates.  I want them to love every minute of this writing and drawing time, even if they don’t see themselves as artists.

One of the best things I can do for my students is give them opportunities to explore with literacy.  Several days a week my kindergarten students come to class to find drawing stations set up around the room.  I use a variety of books and art materials and kids are invited to explore.

Here is an alphabet table with books, letter charts, alphabet stencils and paper.  It’s simply an invitation to play around with the alphabet.  Some kids are ready for stencil work while others may still be in the scribbling stage.  Both choices are perfectly acceptable and developmentally appropriate.

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I love putting out my “how to” drawing  books for kids.  In our Writer’s Workshop, we focus on using simple shapes to draw our pictures.  I’m quick to tell my kids that I’m not an artist, but I still love to be able to tell my stories through pictures and words.  My drawing books give the kids practice in drawing different animals and objects in a sequential manner while using simple shapes.  I buy a lot of my drawing books at second hand stores and often find them at drug stores, in large bins of discounted books.

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My students recently developed an interest in birds, so we asked for some bird feeder donations.  This made a great space for exploration along with some books we had about birds.  The kids look through the books, figure out how the bird feeder works and draw their own pictures about birds and bird habitats.

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Many of the kids in my class are still in the scribbling stage.  I encourage them to use this time to draw their big swirly shapes and make their tornadoes.  They love to grab a handful of crayons or markers and just see what they can make.  Kids who have not grown up doing this really NEED this opportunity to explore.  To ask them to jump into sketching pictures for a story would be like asking someone learning to swim to do a crawl stroke before they have even learned to put their head underwater or blow bubbles.  We have to honor the time kids need to move through these important developmental stages.

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I try to put out books that kids are fascinated by.  Our space and planets table is a big hit!  We set out black paper and oil pastel crayons for this station.  The variety of space-related books serve as inspiration for our drawings.  I love using oil pastel crayons for art projects, but they break very easily.  Rather than throw those little nubs of crayon away, I save them in a large bin.  For kids who struggle with pencil grip, these little nubs are the perfect way to encourage proper grip.  It’s not possible to hold these with the whole hand, so they are forced to pinch them, which is how we want them to hold their pencil as well. This space picture was one I worked on collaboratively with one of the girls in my class.

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Sometimes, we just need a chance to draw, color, and explore with materials.  There is no right or wrong way to engage with art and literacy.  It’s open for our own interpretation.  We have been doing this in my kindergarten classroom two or three times per week and I have the tables set up with inspiration right when they walk in the door in the morning.  I choose my stations by looking at my book selection and just groups of books that seem like they might be of interest to my kids.  I add a variety of crayons, Twistables, markers, oil pastels, and sketching pencils.  That’s when the fun begins!

Are you familiar with the story called Owl Babies?  We love that book, and one of my students wanted to make their own version.  This is the nest, and the sweet little owl babies are huddled in the middle.  The book is stapled backward and is going the wrong direction, but this was a first attempt at making a book and becoming an author.  It was inspired by our art and literacy work and it brought so much joy to our day.  I don’t know about you, but I totally see a nest and three owl in there!

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Happy drawing and coloring!

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