Friday, October 1, 2010

Fingerpainting and Lessons Learned

One of the most fundamental things for my kindergarten students experience in art is finger painting.

I always teach my students the basics of finger painting the first few weeks of school so that I can remind them not to 'paint their hands' or use their fingers later in the year when we are using brushes.

It is a feeble attempt at making sure that I have some order in the chaotic world of the kindergarten art room. Get the messiest stuff over with. This year, I finger painted with 11 classes of kindergarten. That is nearly 250 kids.

Every year, I learn a lot about myself and classroom dynamics when I do this lesson. The lesson itself is very repetitive. This is my fifth year doing the same routine with the same number of classes, so I've literally taught this same thing probably 55-60 times. I've got it down to a near-perfection.

The paint covered hands of the boy above belong to a student that is new to America. Last year he lived in an orphanage. He is new to our school, having recently been adopted by a local family. He always waves at me in the hall and his eyes shine bright with excitement. He had a lot of fun exploring with the paint that day and he is so sweet....

I have learned to always 'suggest' that students pick one hand to spread out the paint and keep the other hand case they have an itch or they need to brush their hair out of their eyes. Most of the time, kids get excited at the idea of covering their hands in paint so I don't stress too much about it on fingerpainting week. They sort of 'get away' with it and I let it slide, but as the year goes on, I expect them to keep their hands mostly clean.

This year, I experienced the ultimate-finger-painting-day-realization that keeping one hand clean is the BEST idea. A boy was spreading out black finger paint, trying to draw in the paint with a popcicle stick.....and then he sneezed.

Both hands were covered with black paint.

This wasn't an ordinary sneeze.

This was the sort of sneeze that produced a full-on snot string that stretched down to the table.

I am no stranger to snot strings. Often, I will be reading a book or giving instructions when I witness an enormous sneeze that produces the elastic, snotty, dripping goo. Usually, the student is able to wipe it on their shirt, suck it back in, or ingest the greenish puddle before I can hand them a tissue or even say their name in reference to using a tissue.

This time, since the boy was covered in paint, wearing a blue paint smock three times bigger than him, and I was right beside him, I was able to quickly hand him one of those crunchy, brown school paper towels.

He grabbed it and got most of the snot, but before he could completely clean it up, another sneeze showed up, and another snot string stretched out.

He continued to use the paper towel, now speckled with black paint to wipe his nose. Black finger paint was covering both his hands and it was getting all over his nose and into his nostrils.

I tried to help the boy, in between putting wet finger paintings in the drying rack, wiping up dropped paint, monitoring the water buckets to be sure that kids were not 'hogging' the sponges or splashing water, and generally making sure that the room wasn't erupting in utter chaos around me.
The boy quickly finished his painting, with black paint on his nose and cheeks....and I put it in the drying rack...and used a baby wipe to clean him up. It could have been a whole lot worse.

I've learned to tell kids not to 'pretend' like they are going to wipe their hands on someone, not to actually touch anyone else, not to clap their hands together because the paint can splat in someone's eye, not to drip water over the floor when walking with a wet paper towel to clean up their spot because when other kids are walking around the room it can become slippery and dangerous and yesterday a girl fell...she didn't get hurt really bad, but she did cry.....all of those personal experiences become part of the lesson and kids seem to really remember things that 'actually' happened to 'some other kid' even if I made the whole thing up...It keeps them safe...and it keeps me sane...
The photos in this post were my attempt at doing something different. I decided to give this class a chance to mix colors and everyone got to make two paintings. I handed out forks and popsicle sticks for them to use to make texture. I plan on letting them cut up the painted papers to make some 'Eric Carle' inspired artwork. I only did a variation on the lesson for 2 of my classes, to break up the monotony of doing the exact same thing over and over...

In the NOTES FOR NEXT TIME section of my lesson plan, I will probably remind myself of the snot story so that next year, I can more strongly suggest that kids ONLY use one hand to spread out the paint.

But for now....I am just glad that I don't have to finger paint FOR 12 WHOLE MONTHS! YAY for that milestone in the school year!

It feels good to have gotten it over on to clay (which isn't messy or troublesome normally...I just have to haul every bit of it to another school to be fired since I don't have a kiln so it takes a lot of time to load it up in my car, unload it, load the kiln, unload it, load my car, unload it, glaze, load my car, unload it, load the kiln, unload it, load my car, unload it!)


Hearthandmade said...

Woo for not having to deal with that for another year!! That string sneeze thing made me laugh. Reminded me of nursery school - the teacher taped a giant piece of paper to the floor and the class all made hand prints or footprints on it! Cuz we were only wee

Maria Ontiveros said...

Love the story telling (again) today! But I'm a little sad that you don't love finger painting. I also now want to finger paint and make Eric Carle art!

Nellie Mae said...

Hey Rinda!

I wouldn't say that I don't love fingerpainting...I would LOVE to finger paint with fewer gets so monotonous...even if I manage to change a couple of classes up....because of all the procedures....

I keep fingerpainting every year because I don't hate it.

The year doesn't feel like it can move forward until we get that one big milestone over sets the stage for all the other messy things we do.

This year, I had to have my principal assist with one REALLY full class (every chair FULL) because of a boy with sensory issues...the sensitivity can trigger a kid to have an outburst and a problem like that can ruin the entire class period.

Luckily, I anticipated his frustration and invited her to come in so that she could be there to help if he had trouble. He did have trouble and I was glad she was there.

I guess...after finger painting...I can breath....I dread it because there isn't a second to relax, I have to constantly react to every sneeze and clap and movement to make sure that the room doesn't go wild. ;-)

Thanks for all of your comments, I am emailing this to you too just in case you don't get my response!!

Erica said...

You are my super hero! I will never be able to try finger painting with my kids. . . I'm so sad. . . it would be a recipe for behavioral disaster. I get the chills just thinking about what would happen if I attempted this! HOW do you do it! And I'm in awe of your tables! Almost all of the fingerpaint is on the paper! It's a miracle! You are an amazing teacher!