Making Connections in the Whole Language Classroom

Direction and Exploration With Art
Diana Triplett

I approach art much the same way I approach writing. I have lots of art supplies available to students during free choice times and I encourage them to experiment in whatever ways they choose. For five and six year olds, the process is usually far more important than the product in this regard.

However, there are also times that I use a more directed approach to art just as I *sometimes* require students to attempt a particular writing craft or respond to a prompt.

For example, as part of our "All About Me" introductory theme this year, I read *The Many Colors of Us,* a book about a child whose mother is an artist. The mother tells the child that all skin colors can be made by mixing the colors red, yellow, white and black. The mother and child take a walk around the block and notice the many different colors of skin on their
friends and relatives. The child gives each skin color a food name (peanut butter, honey, chocolate, peaches, etc.). Then the child returns home to mix the four colors of paint and make portraits of all her friends.

We tested this color mixing theory by attempting to mix our own skin colors using these paints. When the child had a color he/she felt matched his/her own skin tones, I had him/her paint a head, neck and shoulders using the paint to create a self-portrait. Over the next several days, we added eyes, hair, facial features and clothing to make a completed portrait. I directed the children to look in a mirror and notice where each feature should be painted. For example, eyes are usually even with ears in the middle of the face and hair starts on top of the head but usually extends down around the ears, on the forehead or farther. Each child produced a self-portrait, but each self-portrait was unique.

This is only part of the project as the children also write poems about themselves and decorate bubble letters to make their names. All three projects are posted together.

I saw lots of this kind of art on display and closely linked to literacy skills when I visited classrooms in New Zealand. I think it has value in an elementary classroom.

Diana Triplett is a kindergarten/first grade looping teacher. She lives and works in Central Florida. She is a National Board Certified Early Childhood Generalist with a master's degree in Elementary Education from the University of Central Florida. Diana has 18 years of classroom experience.

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