I find that Pre K can be one of the most difficult grade levels to teach as a visual arts instructor. It’s hard to know what level of ability you are working with and depending on your community/administrative input, hard to balance the expectations of “projects” with process.
My experience thus far has been with teaching Pre K students who attend half day programs in our school. There is generally a class of three year olds and a class of four year olds. Our program is mixed levels with some students who are already classified with special needs, others who may be classified in the future and “typical” students. However in the past I have worked with Preschool Disabilities populations so I can understand the specific challenges of that as well.
Starting the YearMy advice is to start the year with a project that serves as a basic assessment to see where your starting point is. I like to begin with a simple project that is not, I admit it, super process oriented but allows me to observe fine motor skills.
What I am looking for:
-cutting skills (four year olds only)
-taking the lid off the glue stick
-using the glue stick properly
-pinch and grasp (crumpling tissue paper)
-attention/endurance when working on art
From here I can make anecdotal notes on the ability level of the class and better know how I might prepare and modify projects for my youngest students. If you’re really ambitious you could fill out a rubric on this for each student. Then evaluate again at the end of the year.
Using Storybooks as InspirationBeyond that initial project, I have really enjoyed working with our media specialist and the preschool teacher to develop a theme for the year. It’s always great to work with co-workers to develop cross curricular projects and I think especially helpful to our smallest artists who are learning to connect to the world around them through all these experiences. This past school year, we worked with various picture books that when applicable, also tied into the preschool “study” of the moment (our preschool uses Creative Curriculum).
Here’s how we made it workThe media specialist would read the book in the media center, use cool manipulatives and also show a video of the storybook if available. In art class that week, I would take the students on a book walk to refresh their memory of the story and then introduce our lesson and objectives.
Modifications were necessary to the lessons to accommodate the differences between the three and four year olds.
Below are a list of books we paired with art projects:
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie… by Laura Numeroff (and the rest of the If you give… series)
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly
Where’s My Mummy? By Carolyn Crimi
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow (along with ...Reading in the Bed, ...Sitting in a Tree,...Wash the Car. It’s a little series by the same author)
Corderoy by Don Freeman
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
Frog on a Log? By by Kes Gray and Jim Field
Pete’s Pizza by William Steig
I stink/ I’m Dirty/ I’m Brave by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan
The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keates/The Mitten by Jan Brett/Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson(for a Winter theme)
Hands: Growing Up to be an Artist by Lois Ehlert
The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds and Julie Lacome (for a shape city collage. Also paired with Paul Klee print)