March 16, 2012

The Creative Process

The creative process of young children is fascinating and multifaceted!

I have a writing center which I call “The Office Center” where the children can create cards, letters, little books and whatever else they want, like beards.
"I made a beard!"

I add new materials periodically to keep it interesting. Last week I added a box with scraps and the children created lots of things.

The processes I witnessed were so diverse.

 This girl begun and finished her work in one go. 
“It is a card for my sisters" she told me.

This other girl worked in a different way.
She made a card for her mum and during sharing time she wanted to show it to the class. She received very positive feedback about how she created a frame and her choice of colors. 
Maybe inspired by the feedback she decided to work on it some more.
"This is a card for my mum" she said again.
I placed it on a table to dry. Later in the day she decided to add more details to it. 
Then she came to me again and said, "My card for my mum is ready!”
We need children to be free to create without judgement and without excessive guidelines. I like it when the children define the purpose and the audience for something they create. I also think it is important for them to share their work with their peers. They love to receive feedback and I love to see how proud they are of their work when talking about it.

I also believe that not only the process but also the product is important. The process because having fun creating something is a must and the product because it represents the result of an experience. That product will preserve the memories of fun times. The product usually has a purpose and this can be to decorate a room or to give to someone you love. I talk about audience and purpose with my students but I do not force the children to create with a purpose. I know that sometimes they are just exploring and having fun with the materials.

The little girl above had fun creating her card but I believe the pleasure she will get from giving it to her mom who will be proud and happy is even greater than the creative process. Her product is an expression of her love for her mother. Taken this into consideration how can I say that only the process is important?

I encourage my students to talk about the process and the product. If they cannot spontaneously talk about it I facilitate by asking questions and then I invite the group to ask questions too.  This works quite well, but you need to model questioning to the group.

Children, like artists, need to be the judges of their own work. Artists don't create artwork to please art critics or the public. They create art because it there is something inside them that needs to come out, that needs to take a form, that needs to communicate. Children are the same. Children begin creating without fear of rejection. Unfortunately later in life they are stopped by their worse critics, their inner critics. How they develop that, then it's a whole different story.

I tell my students that a work is done when they think it's done. I do not set up a time. If we need to stop for some reason they can always go back to their work and finish it later. I have students who make lots and lots of artwork in very little time and others who take more than one day, sometimes a whole week to finish a work. I have students who ask me to continue to work during recess and others who ask me to take home an unfinished work because they want to finish it at home.

They are also free to change their minds about a work being finished or not. This is the case of the little girl in the last pictures. She is a great example of how the creative process is complex. She thought her card was done, decided it was not and worked it on it until she knew she had come to the final product.

As teachers we need to offer all kinds of materials and possibilities for the students to create and explore the world of art. The creative process is fascinating, all we have to do is to let it happen.


March 14, 2012


Making a Self-Portrait is always a fun and enriching activity. I am going to describe today's learning experience in doing a self-portrait.

First I showed the paper the students would use and I projected it on a white board. You can use a smart board of course or just chart paper I recommend having something to model drawing yourself.
We defined self-portrait and thought about which shapes we have in our bodies.
I asked a volunteer to come to the front and asked the kids to help me draw her face.
I add all details the children suggested.
 We were happy with the results.
I modeled using a mirror to look at my face and draw it.
After I finished my self-portrait I asked for the students input. They were fantastic. They asked me to add my hanging little camera purse, earrings, glasses, my toes showing because I was wearing sandals, patterns from my dress, and more.
I then handed a mirror and a paper to each student.

The kids had a ball looking at their faces in the mirror
They could work sitting or standing. And look how this girl is so focused on her drawing.
Even the younger ones did an amazing job.
Princesses did a great job too.          

After they were all ready we shared them with the group. I have different ways of sharing work. We had targeted our audience. It was our friends and our parents as we thought that this would be a great portfolio piece.
The way we chose to share today was for me to hold each drawing and ask the class to tell what they liked about the self-portrait I was holding.

And here are some more self-portrait samples.

You can download the self-portrait template by clicking on the picture below.

If you are doing portfolio with your class I have made two templates that can be useful. One to be used at the beginning of the school year and another one for the end of the school year. This way we can see the progress of drawing a self-portrait. 
Click on the pictures below to download the templates.

March 13, 2012

Reading Reflection for Student Portfolio

It’s the time of the year when many of us are preparing for student portfolio sharing conferences.

Student Portfolio is an amazing tool for many reasons that I can talk about later.

One of the pages of my students' portfolios is a reflection of what they feel as a reader or how they feel about reading.

I am sharing today three different templates. You can download the documents in Word doc format so you can manipulate them according to your needs, but please keep my copyright at the bottom of the page.You need to delete my picture and replace with a picture of your student. Adjust the spaces if necessary.

I do a group discussion about why students consider themselves good readers (or not). Being a good reader and good reading behaviors is something we have been talking about since the beginning of the school year.  So it should be something familiar to the students. It is not something I am just introducing now.

Then you need to have individual conferences with each child to tell you his / her thoughts. I usually transcribe that the child says as in Pre-K most of the students can’t write long sentences.

I really enjoy the whole process of student portfolios!

Amelia Mello, M.Ed.

March 12, 2012

Five Little Monkeys

One of my favorite nursery rhymes is the “Five Little Monkeys”. The children love to act it out. I have monkey masks a phone and a stethoscope in a basket to make it easy to use. 

The children really like the props and of course they love to jump. I really like it when I can have the children develop large motor skills through a fun nursery rhyme.

And don't you love this dedicated mama?

And this very competent doctor?

 I made copies of the masks on colored paper and laminated them. I put elastic so the kids can wear the masks.

Click on the image below to download the mask template from MediaFire.

Good question to promote critical thinking:
How old are those monkeys? What makes you say so?
Why are they jumping on the bed?
Why do children jump on beds?
Why Mama, Papa and the doctor do not want the monkeys to jump on the bed?
Why did the mother have to call a doctor? 
When choosing a child to be the doctor - Should the doctor be a boy or a girl? Why?
If you were a monkey how would you behave?
Why do you think the monkeys did not listen when the doctor said "No more monkeys jumping on the bed"?
What would you do to make the monkeys stop jumping on the bed?

and here are the words to the nursery rhyme
Five Little Monkeys

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his/her head.
Mama (or Papa) called the Doctor and the Doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his/her head.
Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

Three little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his/her head.
Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

Two little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his/her head.
Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

One little monkey jumping on the bed,
He fell off and bumped his/her head.
Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said,
"Put those monkeys straight to bed!

March 9, 2012

World's Science Day

Yesterday it was World’s Science Day. We have been investigating about the life cycles of butterfly, frog, bean and sunflower but since we got our chameleon our focus of inquiry shifted and for a good reason. It is fascinating to have a pet chameleon. We have been learning a lot about it. The students asked many questions and wondered about the life cycle of a chameleon and how to take care of chameleons. We found many answers in books and I complemented the research by looking up sites in the Internet. I have started a PowerPoint presentation with information that we have collected but we still have a few questions to answer.

The highlight is of course watching the chameleon feed. I am posting one clip of him feeding below. It is only 16 seconds but if you do not have very good Internet connection it takes some time for the video to upload. After you click on the play button be patient and wait a few seconds. You might need to clock again on the play button. Initially it looks like the screen is frozen but the video will play.

Chameleon feeding from Amelia Mello on Vimeo.

Back to World’s Science Day we watched what we have so far of the Power Point and we did a close observation of our chameleon and all students drew it. Then I asked the students what they could tell me about their chameleons.  Below are some of their journal entries.  The whole process of drawing the chameleon was fascinating as we were discovering shapes and different ways to draw it. One student said that the head of the chameleon looked like ‘capital letter D’ and he started that way. See if you can find who the student is. Even the younger ones did a great job.
 Chameleon by Cristobal
"Chameleons eat grasshoppers, butterflies, ants and flies." Delhem 

 "His tongue is big. He is eating this (and he pointed to his drawing of an insect)" Edvin
 "My chameleon has big eyes and a long tail. It has a long tongue to catch the grasshopper." Fredy

 Chameleon by Imani D
 "My chameleon is eating a grasshopper. The grasshopper was going to fly but the chameleon got it quickly." Marika
 "My chameleon is eating a grasshopper with his sticky tongue" Nina
 "My chameleon was looking for a grasshopper to eat. And he found one" Shose
 "It's (my chameleon) is green" Jemima (who just turned 3;0)
 Jelte likes chameleons

We will free the chameleon before the school year ends. By the way the chameleon was found crossing a road and Hannah’s mother stopped her car and rescued him. This type of chameleon is very common here in Tanzania.

Amelia Mello, M.Ed.