My most inspiring “writing assignment” was… a realistic drawing lesson. Why teach art? More specifically, realistic drawing? Before children can read and write letters and numbers, they need to observe, recognize, describe, and reproduce basic art forms like straight, slanted, or curved lines, circles, dots, and more. These art forms are basic building blocks found in objects around us, as well as letters and numbers. Ultimately, writing is an art of design from patterns and details.
After years as a professional teacher, I am now a stay-at-home mom homeschooling my two children, but for in this case I focused the lesson on my older child, Antonio (two-years-old). It was late fall and we went outside and played. Yes, that is right. We played. I didn’t talk about writing or realistic art. We just went out and engaged with nature. We walked, ran, and skipped through the yard. We found green nuts falling off the tree. We watched the chickens scratch the ground looking for tasty morsels. While we were outside, my son picked an object of interest – a flower. That day, I put the flower in a vase near the window and I “talked aloud” about what I saw (patterns and details) when I saw the flower several times during that day and the next, whenever it was natural to do so. The next day, we started the realistic drawing lesson. I asked my son to describe what he saw (each detail) and, as he did, I drew only what he described. He said, “I see two circles on the inside, one smaller than the other.” He noticed dots inside the circles, oval-shaped petals, and straight, jagged-lines on the stem. If there were any key details he overlooked, I just drew his attention to it by asking a question like, “Hmm, what else do you see?” (Using my finger to point to a certain area) or “What about the XXX; can you describe that so I can draw it?” After I drew the black outline, he drew his realistic depiction while I repeated his observations using his words. We followed the same process to color our pictures. He described the colors (e.g. light, medium, or dark green) and picked out the marker that best matched the actual color. I modeled staying in the lines because I wanted it to look like the real flower. Later, during unstructured play, Antonio, who could name and recognize both upper- and lower-case letters already, began writing six letters with incredible accuracy using self-talk about the art forms.
Today, in this show, I talk about an extended lesson plan that has a significant writing component that could last days or even weeks. Nature is the catalyst for this extended, purposeful writing and there is a direct connection that can be drawn to the book The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. No, a lesson does not have to start and end within the hour or even with the day. Some of the best lessons are ones that extend over time and expose a child to the concepts, skills, knowledge, and principles in different ways and for slightly different purposes. This way, a child is hearing, learning, and exploring the information and is able to develop not only a breadth of knowledge, but a depth of understanding about how the information is useful and applicable in a variety of areas and a multitude of situations. The best learning happens when a child is given the time, support, and freedom to not only comprehend and practice, but then apply and take action using that information in novel situations.
Lesson Title: Purposeful Writing with Nature
PERMIE KIDs framework:
- Characteristics: Problem-Solver, Resilient, and Inquisitive
- Ethics and Principles: This lesson primarily facilitates learning about how to care for the Earth, observe and interact, and design from patterns and details. However, as the lesson extends, principles like using the edges and valuing the marginal and using and valuing resources are also addressed.
- Knowledge: Language Arts (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), Math, Science (Natural World)
- Concepts: Understanding (What is it? How and why does it work?), Systems (How is it connected to other things?), Action (How is it changing?)
Objectives: The child will be able to…
- Use pictures to predict words in a story
- Dictate or write a communal story
- Dictate or write his or her own story
- Explore nature
- Form a hypothesis
- Test a hypothesis
- Understand how inputs and relationships affect nature and growth
- Distinguish between similarities and differences
- Create a Venn Diagram to display understanding of similarities and differences
- Paper (blank, especially for younger or emerging and beginning writers and for illustrations by all children and lined paper for more advanced writers)
- Pencils, Pens, Markers, Crayons
- Optional: Other Art Supplies
- Book The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
- Wildflower or dandelion seeds
- Compost or potting soil
- Poster Paper (model or make a Venn Diagram together
I look forward to reading your comments about this lesson plan. Hopefully, over the coming weeks you will get a chance to try this lesson and share your reflections with me and others in our community. If you have any questions about using or adapting this lesson to meet the children in your life, please post it in the comments section or use the “Contact Me” tab to send me an email directly.
Other resources you might find of interest:
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I care about you and I want to help meet you wherever you on this journey as an educator and lend a hand, shoulder, or just a listening ear. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out.