Slow and Steady

I am new to teaching art in the EED. (That’s Early Elementary Division for all you non-Trinity folks.) Being new, I have spent most of my first few months figuring out the inner workings of our youngest learners.

Lesson planning for the little guys has been a tightrope balance: what works for one Pre-K class may not work for the other. Some groups of kids experiment for much longer than others. Some groups do NOT care about what you’re going to be for Halloween while others would rather spend the entire class talking about what they ate for breakfast last Tuesday.

As such, most of my lessons this year have been intimidating experiments with outcomes yet undetermined. This is especially the case for the “turtles” I tried to teach the Early Learners how to make.

Did you notice how the word “turtles” is in quotation marks?

Keep that in mind.

We started the lesson by introducing ourselves to the real live turtle that lives in the EED art room. (His name is Tom.) We talked about his important body parts: one head, one tail, one shell, and four legs. Together, we read a book about where turtles live. We talked about the colors found in a turtle’s shell. We counted his legs. We counted his legs again. And then we counted his legs one more time. (Early Learners LOVE to count.)

So when I gave my students a small piece of Model Magic and showed them how to carefully pinch out four turtle legs I was expecting them to follow my lead.

As Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

Some kids pinched, some kids pulled, some kids coiled and smashed. Our little turtles were definitely NOT turtle-shaped.

Repeating the art teacher mantra “process over product” I continued on with the lesson as if my students had made the most beautiful turtles ever created. We covered the turtles with green and brown paint and then added some final decorative dots using their color of choice. Once the class was finished and the students departed I stood alone in my room amongst forty colorful lumps.

You know what I did?

I glued googly-eyes on them.

I glued googly-eyes on the lumpy blobs of Model Magic so that my adult eyes could see what my Early Leaners already knew: those little creatures really were the most beautiful turtles ever created.

Sometimes, when we are wading through a puddle of self-doubt, we simply need a few googly-eyes to brighten up our lesson plans.


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Nina Chamberlain serves Trinity School as the EED Art Teacher


8 thoughts on “Slow and Steady

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your process with the early learners, Nina! The “turtles” are wonderful! They are as unique as your students! I’m sure your students loved the “googly” eyes!

  2. Rhonda Mitchell

    Googly-eyes and glitter make anything look beautiful! First EED lesson learned.

    Thank you for bringing your expertise to young children and for seeing through their eyes. They and their parents will cherish those turtles and skills for years. I still have Camille’s porcupine (brown thing with eyes and toothpicks) on a shelf.

  3. I love the art teacher mantra “process over product” …. and the googly eyes 🙂

  4. Thanks for this post. Our students are fortunate to have you guiding them!

  5. I loved your blog and it is so true! I am so glad you appreciate the work of Early Learners!!

  6. “Tom” the Turtle is clearly an inspiration for so many things, including ART!

  7. What I love most about this post is the reminder to celebrate where students are – even with googly eyes!

  8. Nina, I love that you are willing to take the steps needed to understand just where young students are, continue to encourage their learning and creativity and celebrate alongside them. I’m sure their excitement and confidence grows each time they come into your art room 😉

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