Allowing children to make decisions is an important aspect of their art experience. When children are constantly told where to place each piece of paper or where to put their hand print, they lose confidence in their own ability to make good choices.
When we talk about Process over Product, there are many reasons why this concept is emphasized. Part of the process is giving children choices in how they would like to create or design or draw and so on.
I can always tell, when observing children, whether or not they are confident or have been in control of the process. Children who feel confident take the materials they are given and start right away making decisions about how they want to use the materials. Children who are overly guided through the process tend look up and seek approval for their decisions along the way.
In this classroom, the teacher set out a large assortment of shapes for the children to create their own shape monsters. The teacher didn’t specify what a shape monster should look like because these children were certainly old enough to use their own imaginations as part of the creative process.
The more children are able to make their own decisions in the creative process, the more engaged they will be in the creative process. Encouraging children along the way by telling them you love their ideas is a good thing but children are very sensitive to your approval so also look for ways to help them to be personally satisfied with their work. Give your students space to make their own decisions and provide encouragement as needed along the way.
The role of the teacher when it comes to the process is to facilitate confidence, decision making, and reassurance. Children need to believe that their ideas and efforts are valued. When I have a child tell me that they can’t do something – I help them with the thinking process rather than take over or tell them what to do. I want to facilitate their confidence and ability to problem solve or make decisions.
Children will surprise you at what they can do if you give them the space to make their own decisions. I would have never thought of making a monster like the one above and yet it was one of the most innovative monsters of the day. The child brought into his creative experience a little symmetry – now that is cool!
One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of teaching is when young children demonstrate who they are, how they think, what they know, and what they are learning. Giving children control over the process helps to produce confident decision makers and problem solvers. The next time you plan an activity – visualize the process. Ask yourself, what will the children actually do and how will this enhance their skills and promote their confidence?