I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a saying in the Early Childhood world: Process vs Product. This refers to methods with which art materials are used. With process art, the children are in control. They experiment and explore with the materials. It’s theirs. A product, however, looks exactly the way the teacher decides. Typically the teacher precuts the pieces and tells the children where to put them and what colors to use. (Once my son, when he was 3, came out from his camp program saying, “Look what my teacher made for me!” Counselor:” No, you made it, remember when you painted the plates last week?” He said, “No.” He had spread brown paint on paper plates, and the adults precut eyes, ears, arms, legs and a bow tie and stapled them on to make a bear. What did my son learn? The adults did a great job on their project!
Today, we made a product. Turtles, to be exact, in the style of Dr.Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle. I actually drew shapes for the children to cut! (In general, beware of any “art” project done because it’s “cute.” Everything a preschooler does in school should have meaning!)
Why on earth did I do something which I strongly despise? This was a “vehicle” to achieve the desired objectives.
The educational objectives for the children depended on the age of the child. We have 3-5 year olds in class.
Some of the objectives were:
The child will use scissors correctly. (Thumb up, placed in smaller hole, other fingers in larger hole. Point scissors forward, perpendicular to the body, using the opposite hand to guide the paper.)
(Some) children will use correct hand placement to “snip” pieces from a 1 inch rectangle.
(Some) will cut along black lines.
(For me: assess the children’s hand grip, ability to follow lines.) Observe comfort level of cutting. (Some could quickly cut all of the detailed pieces, others struggled with a simple curve.) Some were given pre-cut pieces, depending on the difficulty level.
Younger ones, use glue to paste small pieces. (Yes, there were puddles of glue, but those hand muscles were used! Good pre-writing skills!)
Older ones: review and create patterns. Create a pattern using squares previously cut from strips. For me: Assess child’s ability to create (and continue) patterns independently.
(First we reviewed patterns using the children (sit, sit, stand, sit, sit, stand) then made patterns with larger pieces of paper.
The product was a way to address these objectives, and a prop to help them recall the story.
Some children were capable of cutting out all of the pieces. Some just the curves of the shell. Some just snips of paper. Two children wanted to do their own thing and create their own turtles, including a “fancy rectangle turtle.” Did it look like a turtle? To her it did. She snipped, cut independently, had proper scissor grip and was able to use the glue appropriately. Objectives achieved. The same with the boy who decided to create a “foot face.” Yes, the face was on the turtle’s foot! Another cut his own head, and legs. It doesn’t matter what the end result was, the skills I’d previously identified were accomplished.
This is a “Beautiful Rectangle Turtle.”
The majority of the time, we are process oriented. Sometimes,(a couple of times a year!) a product can be used to address goals. As you can see, the reason for the product was not “to make a turtle,” but to develop specific fine motor and math skills. Process and an occasional product. It’s all about balance, young padawans!