“I did it!” often echoes through the expressive arts room.
Great happiness arises when children are mastering skills. For young children, learning to cut paper or tape is often a challenge. I’ve observed 3-year-olds struggle for 10 minutes wrangling a piece of tape off the roll. When the task is accomplished, a cry of joy can be heard: “I did it!”
Then, they go back and do it again. “I did it!” may be repeated with each piece of tape that comes off the roll without tangling. Mastering the art of cutting tape in order to connect and build is freedom for young children. This is true of any success with the basic skills they are learning.
I love to share the children’s determination and tenacity with their parents. Many parents have commented to me that they are never quite sure how to respond when their child gifts them with a little rolled up piece of tape. Products are certainly easier to respond to than processes, yet it is in the process that a wealth of learning occurs.
With this in mind, I watched a 3-year-old rip apart pieces of construction paper. He had taken a piece of previously used paper from our reuse basket. (Thank you, Pandas, for this idea!)
Very purposefully, even methodically, he continued ripping for an extended period of time.
As we’d just received a donation of small shopping bags from the Auction Fundraising Committee, an idea hatched. Rather than recycle the cuttings or simply put them in an envelope, I asked the child if he’d like to decorate a bag that would hold his work.
He accepted my scaffolding. On the bag I wrote:
“Nathaniel likes to rip and cut at expressive arts.”
The words would be a bridge between school and home, a simple way of giving parents an entry into their child’s process that would allow for further engagement of what the child found meaningful.
Other children liked the idea and began creating take-home art bags of their own.
Scaffolding does not work every time. I had asked the first child if he’d like to connect some of his torn paper pieces with tape, forming shapes or designs. My suggestion was not utilized. He preferred to observe the torn pieces lying on the table. I realized it was the tearing and observing that was important to this child.
I noticed later that a slightly older child who sat at another table had overheard my suggestion and had tried it out. He connected several pieces of torn paper to make a cat.
Mastering skills while an accompanying adult notices the child's progress builds confidence and paves the path of learning with great enjoyment and fun.
For more information on scaffolding, coined by Lev Vygotsky, please see my blog of January 20, 2014.
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