Working With Young Children

What is the best way to introduce social justice to kindergarteners?
Do it through reading well-chosen children’s literature. Hold short discussions where your students are free to voice all of their thoughts. Move on to the art activity and continue informally discussing the topic while you create awesome art!

Should they shout out or raise hands?
Raise hands. Ignore those who do not raise their hands and praise those who do.

My shy students are not speaking out.
Give them time. Allow them to feel safe. Keep the more dominant personalities at bay by having an outlandishly decorated “talking stick.” Whomever has it gets to talk and others must listen.

How can I facilitate discussions with young children?
Use the methods outlined in my lessons. Keep concepts simple and few (1-2) in each lesson. Ask just a few questions and plan enough time for students to respond.

What are some strategies to use with Kindergarteners or 1st graders? How can I prep to keep them engaged for 45 minutes?
Keep things simple! Rehearse the simplified verbs and nouns that you will need to use. Use a low voice and a focusing tool to gain their attention. Don’t lecture or talk for more than 2-3 minutes at a time or you’ll lose them. Use visuals to designate areas. This helps them navigate the room during art class.

Kinder and 1st grade teachers prep to keep things orderly during the lesson itself, and to focus time use on your lesson objective. For example, cutting something with scissors for a collage is going to take them forever. Ask them to rip pieces of paper with their hands instead. If you know that giving them a whole magazine could mesmerize them, give them a bag with 10-12 images to choose from. If you suspect your kindergarteners will spread glue all over their hands, give them glue in tiny cups.

How Do I Plan For Art Stations?
Stations serve to give students choices and freedom in the pace at which they choose to complete different projects or part of a project. Think about the maximum number of students at each station. Organize the lesson into 3-5 stations, one where you will sit doing direct instruction, another where your partner will sit also doing direct instruction, and other, independent stations. There could be a different art activity at each station or there can be parts of a common project in each station. For example, a papier-maché lesson could involve a paper ripping station, three pasting stations, and a drying station (with one or two blow-dryers).

Stations keep young students focused while taking advantage of the fact that elementary aged students move a lot. Instead of having to spend time having to keep them still, they get to circulate around the room and move at their own speed. One thing you will have to think through is a simple way to keep track of who has gone to what station. Also, how will students be able to tell that they have completed the task at each station. Some teachers stamp an “art passport,” others give a token.

This video made by a public school art teacher explains how art stations would work in middle school. One of the ideas I like is her use of an assessment sheet to teach students to keep track of their progress, and to think of the criteria by which they will be evaluated. In your case, your students might use such a slip to help them tell when they have done everything that is expected of them. Another valuable idea is all the ways in which she has helped students navigate the room during the busy time that is art.