Kindergarten is all about learning through exploration. It’s a time to build on a child’s natural curiosity in their ever-expanding world. Hands-on learning with a wide variety of materials helps them make meaning of new sensory experiences. It gives art teachers a chance to learn what their fresh crop of kinders can and can’t do. And that’s why every art teacher should pull out this old warhorse, kindergarten collage project the first marking period.
Art Skill Assessment
During our second art class, I assess my kinder’s cutting and gluing skills. I give them a worksheet with 5 lines and have them attempt cutting it. I’m looking at four aspects of cutting: handling the scissors, cutting, their focus on the task, and safety. I plunk a pair of scissors in front of them and watch what hand they use to grasp them. I’m instantly looking for “pinch hitting,” meaning they’re switching the scissors back and forth between hands to figure out which one to use. Even more, I’m searching for that student who holds them backwards and upside down (sometimes simultaneously). I always have about 4 out of 20-something kids in a class doing that. And lastly, I’m eager to see who can make long, smooth cuts on the line, cuts away from themselves, and turns the paper as they cut.
If you’d like a copy of my free cutting assessment worksheet that I use with my kindergarten collage project, click on the image below to download.
In terms of gluing, I’m wanting to see that students can open and close a glue stick. I call my glues, “Gary the Glue.” And I tell my k’s that Gary has a hat that needs to be put on tight so his head doesn’t freeze. In addition, they need to walk his head around the edge of the shape two times so it’s sticky enough. Our rule, “glue the shape being added to the artwork, not the background.” And lastly, they need to use both hands to firmly adhere it to the surface.
Kindergarten Collage Project
After the initial assessment, I do some basic projects focused on lines and shapes to build up their vocabulary. And then about mid-way into the marking period, we create a collage.
I structure the lesson very simply. First, we begin with a 5 minute introduction and slideshow illustrating:
- what a collage is
- what one looks like
- who makes them
- what materials are used
- why they are made
For the “why” part of it, we’ve already talked about what artists do (they make art, express themselves, and share ideas). This is reinforcement of prior lessons. And then we’re off collaging!
I source my collage materials by saving every random scrap material possible. Here are typical scrap things I save for this:
- foam shapes
- torn and cut pieces of painted papers
- decorative papers from cards
- fabric swatches
- popsicle sticks
ART TEACHER TIP: When students test out paint colors then scrap it? Don’t let them throw those out. Save them in a bowl for collage work. One kid’s trash is another kid’s treasure. Also, older students love painting on paper. Use up leftover paints to make collage papers for the younger ones.
For this kindergarten collage project, I’m looking for improvement in their cutting and gluing skills. What they choose to make it look like (or not) doesn’t matter. If it’s a whole picture all about shapes? Awesome. If it winds up looking like a hockey player? Awesome. I’m more concerned about their problem-solving and decision-making skills:
How do they approach cutting thicker things like felt and burlap?
What creative solutions do they have for the the painted paper scraps?
Are they attempting to cut out shapes we’ve practiced already or are they merely gluing things as is?
Do they understand how to overlap shapes for interest?
The randomness of what’s in that bowl will guide their decision making. So if you attempt this lesson – and you should – the more varied those materials are, the better.
I give every table a giant bowl of goodness. The best part of the lesson is putting that bowl down on the table and watching their eyes light up with joy. In addition, I also disperse small samples of other scraps I’ve not yet added. The total randomness gets their creative juices flowing as they try to process how to synthesize these new findings.
This year’s crop of k’s have been interesting. I was surprised, despite their overall low skills in cutting that they attempted to cut the burlap, felt, and ribbon on their own. And no one complained if they couldn’t do it. They learned to pair up with a buddy to help hold the thing being cut without being told. Hurrah!
These pictures best illustrate students who were and weren’t working towards mastery in cutting a gluing as well as problem-solving and decision-making. Because let’s be real friends, not every students is going to get it right away.
About half were inclined to immediately glue their findings down while others were eager to create something from those scraps. Some struggled with how to glue yarn to paper. We decided that an exception to the “only glue the piece being glued down” rule needed to happen. And some of them still fell back into the bad habit of gluing the background and not the shape being adhered.
Also, something to expect is that there will always be that one student who cuts a million little pieces before he or she has actually used any. Be on the lookout for them. Your entire bowl will get mowed down in a pinch. This year I had a few in every class.
Do you do a kindergarten collage project? Is it more structured than this? I’d love to hear what you do with your k’s. Leave a comment below. And if you found something here that was helpful to you, pin the image below so you can share it with others.