Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Best Things in Life are Free


You know the saying, "The best things in life are free?" Well, I'm here to tell you it is true! Because in my room, drawing and coloring are free! We're big fans of "Free Drawing" in the Art Studio. It's a simple idea, an area where my students can choose from a variety of materials...and choose what they want to do! No strings attached. They can color coloring pages, play with play-dough, draw with crayons, markers, oil pastels or pencils; cut and paste galore, use tracing paper, stencils and how-to-draw books.


Wait. Coloring pages? you may ask alarmingly. Those come from coloring books, right? Why, I thought coloring books were the suffocaters of childhood creativity!? Well, if they are, my creativity would have been snuffed out decades ago at my grandparent's house, where I spent happy hours coloring from books found in my Baba's dining room hutch. So no worries!

On normal days the kids can do free drawing when they finish up their assigned lesson while exhibiting their best effort and caring and consideration for their fellow artists. That, as it turns out is a big incentive.

However, early in the month of March..the now dreaded month of March because of...dun, dun, dun standardized testing, in order to combat what I call Testing Fear and Fatigue™ (TFF), I offer entire weeks of free drawing time.

Let's take a photo journey of this past March to see how free drawing (which included the coveted "play with clay day"!) worked to heal my kid's TFF...

If my room was a country, coloring pages could be currency.
Warning: Some of the children you are about to see are 5th graders! Practically tweens. Who cannot get enough of playing with play-dough.

Using the tools is a satisfying endeavor. Small-motor skills refinement, anyone?





















A Rose, is a rose...is blue. 
Someone is either hungry, or a burgeoning chef. These are "carrots". And lots of them.

Free choice. Free to choose what creative endeavor you'd like to try. It's quite a concept. One that's been forfeited almost entirely from our current school day. A reality every teacher I know struggles with.

No matter what day it is, there is always a student who wants to draw with oil pastels. One child described the sensation like "drawing with colored butter." 
Drawing on paper what is in their mind's eye can give children a sense of empowerment that may not exist in their every day lives.  They can put down their dreams in a tangible way, that they or anyone else can witness.  Some of my children are homeless.

Tracing paper is quite a commodity. I suspect using it builds confidence and I know it refines hand-eye coordination, especially important for children who have little opportunity to draw at home.
Coloring mandalas has a calming and centering effect. I stock up on mandala coloring books for that very reason.

For many of my students, the time they spend exploring with art materials in my room 40 minutes per week, is the only time they get to work with art materials at all. My Art Studio is a No High Stakes Testing Zone. A sentiment that seems to have resonated with concerned folks across the country...

As for my young artists....we create and imagine while we can...

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