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and to bring beauty into our lives. We continued to experiment with how
to bring our values, beliefs, and commitments to life. Through mistakes
and satisfactions, through reflection, collaboration, and celebration, we
invented our way—just as you can, to bring the language of art into your
program. As you begin your own journey into these practices, you may find the
following process of self-reflection and study useful. This protocol for
thinking and questioning is adapted from A Thinking Lens® for Reflection
and Inquiry developed by Margie Carter, Deb Curtis, and me.
Reflection and Inquiry
Know yourself. Open your heart to this moment.
k What is the role of art in your life? Have you had encounters with art that
have moved or energized you?
What was your childhood experience of creating art? What was your sense
k of whether or not you were “an artist”? Did that change as you grew older?
Why? How do you feel about that change?
k What is your experience of creativity in your life now? Your experience of
making and honoring beauty?
k What are your hopes for the young children you teach, related to their
experiences with the arts? What do you hope they believe about their
capacity to learn and use the language of art?
What adult perspectives (for example, standards, health and safety, time,
k learning goals) are on your mind as you think about inviting children to learn
and use the language of art?
k What about these ideas leaves you curious, eager to learn more, willing to
give this approach a try?
Take the children’s points of view
k Watch children draw. What subjects do they choose to draw about? What
details do they include in their drawings? What frustrates them as they draw?
What fuels their determination? As they draw, do they tell stories related to
Notice how children interact with one another while they draw. Does one
k child’s drawing inspire another child’s work? Do children point out mistakes
in one another’s drawings, offering suggestions about how an image ought
Listen to how children talk about one another as artists. Do they identify
k a child as a “good drawer,” knowing that certain skills and knowledge are
important for artists to have?
k Where do you think the children run up against roadblocks in their ability to
use art media and materials? What support do you think would be helpful to
them to find their way around those roadblocks?
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Examine the environment
k In what ways does the current design of your classroom support or get in
the way of children’s use of art media?
What art materials are always available for children to use? Are they
k organized and displayed in a way that communicates an invitation to use
them with intention?
k What changes might you make to the ways in which art materials are
offered on the shelves? For example, could you group markers, colored
pencils, and crayons by color; add materials from the natural world like
leaves, twigs, and seedpods; include several sizes of paintbrushes with the
paints? How do the children respond to these changes?
What time is currently available in your classroom schedule for children to
k use art media? Do children explore on their own? With a teacher’s support
and guidance? What would you like to change about this?
k How does your thinking about art change if you begin to call your art area
an art studio? Does that shift in language influence what you think belongs
in that space and what sort of work should be done in that space?
Collaborate with others to expand perspectives
k How do your colleagues think about the purpose and possibilities of art?
k What inspiration do your colleagues draw on when they offer art media and
materials to the children in their classrooms?
k What insights about the purpose and possibilities of art do the children’s
families have? What are their hopes and values about children’s fluency
with the language of art?
Reflect and take action
k What values, intentions, and desired outcomes do you want to shape your
learning about the language of art?
k How might you use art media and materials yourself to represent what you
see, wonder, and understand? What can you learn about the possibilities
and challenges of the language of art when, for example, you sketch
a child’s block construction, draw the characters in a drama game, or
illustrate the ways in which children transform a blob of playdough into
various shapes and functions?
k What happens when you hold back from giving children instructions for
a product-oriented art activity and instead offer them an art medium like
watercolor paint to explore, following the suggestions in the chapter on
watercolors? What happens for the children? What happens for you?
k How will you continue to learn about children’s capacities for the language
k How will you collaborate with families to grow your teaching practice
related to the language of art?
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