I’m teaching Kindergarten art this year. It’s been a few years since I’ve had that honor. I went into it with a “Pffft, I’ve got this” attitude and quickly realized that maybe I don’t. Got this that is. It’s been awhile, and I had forgotten that Kindergartners are different creatures. Some of them can read, most of them can’t. Some of them can write their own names, some of them can’t. Some of them have been exposed to art before, but many of them have not. Some of them might not know how to use scissors, or glue sticks, or glue bottles. Some of them have never used paint before, or even crayons. Kindergarteners are the babies of the elementary world (and I don’t mean the stick your head in gravy kind either). They require a different approach because they’re brand spanking new, and they just don’t know how to yet. Here are a few of my tried and true tips for surviving 45 minutes of Kindergarten art class (God help you if you’re cursed with 60 minutes of Kindergarten art, like I am).
Learn their names. ASAP.
Adrian is one of the worst listeners in the class. Aidan, on the other hand, is a great listener.
It is crucial to learn the real names of your Kinders as soon as possible. Calling a kid “boy in blue striped shirt” the first week of school is probably okay, but after that it’s no good. His mom will likely put him in a green shirt next week. Likewise, it’s important to learn Susie’s name quickly, because while she might be “girl with pigtails” this week, next week she’ll be “girl with ponytail” and Janie will be “girl with pigtails,” and Cara, who was “girl with ponytail” last week will wonder why she’s now “girl with hair” this week. All sorts of confusion will ensue. It’s just easier to learn their names.
I find that it helps to use seating charts and take attendance.
Make extras. Lots and lots of extras.
Kindergarteners lose things. All the time. Case in point, this one time, a Kinder lost his lunch. All over the table. If I hadn’t had extra cut paper squares on hand, the other students at his table would have been making black and white and red all over penguins.
Seriously though, it’s good to be prepared and have extra materials on hand. For my older classes, my rule of thumb is to always round up to the nearest five. Twenty-seven students in the class? I make thirty copies. For my Kinders, I round up to the nearest fifteen-ish. Twenty-four Kinders? I cut forty 2″ orange squares. It can take the same student eight tries before he cuts out a penguin beak he’s happy with. I once handed supplies out to the same table three times because no one received them the first time, or the second time, and no one knew where they went.
Make extras. Trust me, “boy with glasses” is not going to wait patiently in his seat while you dig out the paper and cut more paper strips.
Have books on hand.
Nothing can save a floundering afternoon Kindergarten art class like a good book can. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a good one.
Kids love being read to. It’s almost magical what a book can do to a rowdy, off-the-wall, group of twenty-four five year-olds. I’ve been known to wrap class up a full fifteen minutes early in order to read a book (did you see the note above about Kindergarten art being 60 minutes long). I highly recommend pre-screening your books though. Lest you find yourself reading a pirate story in which you can’t pronounce any of the names and the students feel the need to point out every time you pronounce Hippolyte de Bouchard differently. Or worse, you find an old copy of Yertle the Turtle, and part way through it you wonder if the subject material is a little too heavy for five year olds.
“I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”
Practice your penguin waddle.
Kinders like to laugh. And pretend. And be silly.
The more you’re able to connect with your inner Kinder, the better art class will go for you. I’m not above waddling around the classroom like a penguin or creeping around like a ninja, and you shouldn’t be either. But holy Hannah, don’t forget to paper your door before doing so, because if just one of your sixth grade students sees you…
So what’d I forget? If you’ve got ’em, leave your Kindergarten art tips in the comments. For the rest of you, good luck. You’re going to need it. And wipes. You’re going to need wipes. Lots and lots of wipes.