Augusta Golden May 4, 2021 Dot to Dot
It has been a long while since I last wrote. I really miss it when I cant put my thoughts to paper (or keys... as it is). Last week I was teaching a bunch of kids aged 4-8 about the importance of mindfulness. This is a class which I teach every week. If you have never taught little kids before, it is much like trying to herd cats. The mindfulness class is one hour and for one hour I need about ten to twenty different activities as their attention span is so fleeting. Last week I had prepared a very exciting lesson using vinegar and baking soda to demonstrate how, when your mind is racing, it is like bubbles in the jar. I LOVED my new experiment and the kids were mildly amused for thirty seconds. I taught them to put their hand on their belly and breathe down the "bubbles of anxiety in their minds". Naturally as the acetic acid reacted completely with the sodium bicarbonate, the bubbles settled. Seemed like a compelling lesson? But, as with the others, it was... on to the next lesson!
Dot to dot puzzles, a classic activity many of us remember from our own childhood, is still a favorite of teachers and parents hoping to encourage kids to work on their counting and small motor skills. And, of course, the kids love them, too. The development of fine motor skills is important for academic success, and working dot-to-dots puzzles gives children a chance to practice gripping a pencil correctly and understand how numbers work in sequence. Besides being a fun process, dot to dots offer a reward in the form a completed picture that can be colored in and displayed. Dot to dots may be worked in pencil, with crayon or even pen. But when working dot to dots, as in life, mistakes can happen, so using a pencil with an eraser can avoid frustration, especially with the littlest kids, or junior perfectionists.
I quickly put away the jar, vinegar, and baking soda and moved on to another exercise and another and another. At the end of each mindfulness class, I conclude with the same exercise: lying on your stomach and drawing your happy place. As soon as I announce that we are going to be doing the mindful drawing, they excitedly drop to their tummies and wiggle with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas morning. I pass out the fresh white paper and a can containing shards of crayons. The second their crayons hit the paper, you can hear a pin drop. There is no goofing around, there is no talking, but there is complete mindfulness. For fifteen minutes, they will draw, colour, and become immersed in their creation. Of course the real magic is not what is happening on the paper but rather what is happening in their mind. They are thinking about their happy place and then making it happen on paper - perfect mindfulness. It is the same as when we use guided visualization to enter into meditation.
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This Saturday marked the fifth annual International Dot Day, a day dedicated to encouraging students creativity and inspiring confidence. Classrooms around the globe have been celebrating this and last week with unique activities such as dot art, musical "sound dots," and using dots to help teach maps and math. Dot Day was started by teacher Terry Shay in Waterloo, Iowa, to celebrate the publication of Peter H. Reynolds childrens book "The Dot"; the book shares the story of a young girl named Vashti who is encouraged by her teacher to "make her mark." In the story, Vashti tries to prove to her teacher that she cannot draw by making a small mark on the paper while declaring, "There!"-Vashtis art teacher then encourages her to be brave and use her imagination to see where this dot could take her.
Keep in mind that the level of difficulty of the subject is appropriate for their age and their skill level. This can be difficult when you are working with a number of children of differing ages or when youre working with your own children and they are of multiple skill levels. Please remember never to use competitive words such as wrong, right best and ensure you praise, praise, praise. Even when drawing the same subject, each childs interpretation will ensure a unique piece of artwork every time. After all, how can they be compared, just as De Vinci cant be compared to Monet? If you notice that your child is taking a real interest in art and drawing you may want to get them enrolled in classes so that they can enhance their skills and embrace that aspect of their world. Children who are also experiencing difficulty mastering fine motor skills or displaying poor concentration skills will greatly benefit from these drawing lessons, just be patient. Providing they are not too distracting for the other students and are enjoying their drawing, keep encouraging them and praising them. In the end this will reap wonderful rewards both for the child and the teacher.