Learning to Express Through Art & Reading in Preschool

Learning to Express Through Art & Reading in Preschool
Posted on 05/01/2023
This is the image for the news article titled Learning to Express Through Art & Reading in PreschoolLearning takes many forms in an ESD 123 ECEAP preschool classroom to meet individual student needs and create the comprehensive experience our youngest learners need to grow. Partnership with Special Olympics of Washington (SOWA) through the Young Athletes and Young Readers programs, paired with art expression activities funded by the Complex Needs grant from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), help teachers bring together academic, physical, and social emotional learning.

Art ExpressionCindy Morris working with child on art activity

Offered mainly as a one-on-one experience, art expression is individualized to meet children’s abilities and interests. In one instance, a child experiencing extreme trauma had stopped communicating verbally with her guardians and teachers. The art expression consultant engaged her in theatrical games, making puppets and masks, and other similar activities that allowed the child to share her feelings in different ways, to the point the child started communicating again during an art expression visit.

In addition to increasing self-compassion and empathy, art activities are intentionally designed to build social emotional literacy (SEL), improve cognition and sensory motor functions, and foster healing and mental well-being. Art activities help a child practice motor function, identify colors, and count while creating art, while an art expression consultant leads them through learning to express themselves.

Each child’s progress during the activity is observed and documented utilizing Teaching Strategies GOLD® objectives, and successes are shared with their teacher and family. Families receive letters describing what their child did that day at school and what skills were built, what materials were used, and an extension activity they can do at home to continue fostering development.

Young Readers 

Lisa Brouwer reading It's Okay to Be Different to a childThe Unified Young Readers Club from SOWA helps reinforce both art expression and classroom activities. While the Young Athletes program gets preschoolers active by practicing basic sports skills, Young Readers provides books with paired discussion questions and activities for preschool classrooms. Each book’s theme is related to state academic standards and promotes social inclusion and positive personal and interpersonal relationships. The books are integrated into lessons and can be found in classroom library areas for children to explore during free play.

The program also provides an opportunity to connect books with each art expression activity. Art expression consultants read a Young Reader book with the child to introduce SEL concepts and then refer to it throughout the activity. For example, an art expression activity with sculpting clay connected to the book It’s Okay to Be Different allows students to bring the book’s themes of individuality and acceptance to life by creating unique characters through storytelling. Other activities include colorful 3-D sculptures with The Most Magnificent Thing and filling jars with colorful “relaxing rice” with Sky Color.

The books and art together help teachers facilitate conversations around SEL concepts, recall activities, and inspire new creative play. Beyond individual art expression sessions, ECEAP teachers incorporate Young Readers books and activities, as well as art expression, into lesson planning for the whole classroom.

See what art expression looks like in action and how books help guide discussions with this Art Expression at ESD 123 ECEAP video.
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