Thursday, August 22, 2019

Drawing Lines and Stamping Potatoes: Beginning Art Skills for Little Ones

A kindergartner with no vision practices drawing directional lines before learning to create zig zags with a potato stamp.

My kindergartner students with visual impairments and my older students with multiple disabilities are often on about the same level developmentally.  I try to create lessons that meet them at their level and that can be applied in a variety of situations. That's why we started this school year learning about types of lines, including directional lines.  Vertical lines were practiced by standing and reaching for the ceiling and then pulling their hands down to the floor while repeatedly saying, "Vertical lines are up and down." We'd shift the exercise to pull their arms to be parallel to the floor and waving them from left to right. "Horizontal lines are side to side, left to right." We drew vertical and horizontal lines with chalk on a brick wall, with crayon and marker on paper, with Wiki Sticks, and with little tiles lined up.  The next class we repeated it all but add diagonal lines, zig zag lines and loopy lines.  It may sound like I am remediating too much, but many of the students will take months to understand. Besides, I spent two weeks on horizontal lines alone during my college Chinese Calligraphy class.

Next we added some shapes.  I taught them how to stamp with potatoes, first by having them feel the outside of a plastic bag and guess what was in it.  They next handled, smelled, (a few even licked) the potato to try to understand what the object was.  Once it was understood that I had brought potatoes we talked about how potatoes grow and all the ways we can cook them.  Finally I sliced it open, creating a smooth, wet, flat surface.

Every class chose a couple shapes for me to quickly carve (draw with a knife perpendicular to the surface before cutting in from the sides) and then have the student dip the potato in a shallow pool of tempera paint and then stamp it onto the surface. "Dip and stamp. Dip and stamp."  Sometimes students would find a cadence such as "Dip and stamp, stamp, stamp." Other students would count.

The second day we used potato stamps, I had them review the types of lines we learned by repetitively drawing them on their paper.  This activates the negative space helps us to review vocabulary, and frankly fills some time because the stamping itself only takes a couple of minutes. We branched out to foam stamps and sponges shaped like animals.  It's only been a couple of weeks and I'm not sure anyone has created anything worthy to hang in the hall, but the fact that my students can be heard outside of my class talking about potatoes, saying, "Let's draw vertical lines!" Or whispering, "Left to right," as they sweep their white canes from side to side as a win!

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