• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Saturday, January 23, 2016

on coloring

Coloring is big right now. Real big. Everywhere you look, you see coloring books. Adults are coloring big time. So it's not just for kids anymore.

So what's the deal?

Coloring is relaxing.
Coloring is meditative.
Coloring is great for fine motor practice.

But let's be honest. Coloring other peoples' drawings is not the same as making art.

As an art teacher who works hard to make sure that my art lessons are a combination of instruction in specific techniques or subject matter and a focus on kids' own creativity, the proliferation of coloring books and the focus and attention on coloring is something I look at with a dubious eye, because I know that a drawing of a family created by a child is so much more interesting than a coloring page of a family.

Coloring is fine, but it should not be used replace real art instruction, especially in today's standards-based, test-heavy classrooms where students creative opportunities are already cut to the bone.

Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-coloring. But I am pro-art education, and I know the value of allowing students to create their own masterpieces. That can never be done with a coloring page, because all the student is doing is filling in somebody else's idea. A student who draws herself inside a tent on a rainy day with the sun shining and flowers growing is learning a whole lot more than a child coloring in a traditional picture drawn by an adult.

In classrooms, coloring pages are often used as filler, handy for when a student finishes an assignment, or easy for a rainy day recess. And there's nothing wrong with this, as long as we recognize what it is: a relaxing activity that might help develop concentration, eye-hand coordination, and small motor skills.

But please, please, let's not call it art.

If teachers must use coloring pages in the classroom, I would at least like to see them add a bit of a challenging twist by giving students some parameters:
• use only analogous colors
• use only two contrasting colors, and do some shading
• use only one color, with different values
• draw and color a linear pattern in the background
• use only primary, secondary, or tertiary colors

Or better yet.... give kids some blank paper and a marker and let them create their own coloring pages! Or give them scissors, paper and glue and see what they come up with!

But most importantly, don't tell kids they get to do art and then hand out a coloring page.....

.... because coloring is not the same as making art.

Check out my TeachersPayTeachers store for teacher-friendly, authentic art lessons that rely on student creativity and which easily integrate across the curriculum. Enjoy!

Need some ideas? Start with this free resource: Making Time for Art.


Denise @Playlearnteach said...

Here, here, Renee! This brings me back to years ago when I inherited my preschool classroom and found a stockpile of coloring books. I threw those out right away! Kids like to use art materials, so teach them some small lessons, and then step out of their way! ~Denise

Mrs. Scotten's Blog Page said...

Love this! We leave so little to kids' imagination these days--I think we forget what they are capable of. As an 8th grade language arts teacher, I try to incorporate art into my lessons a few times a year. I see kids stumble with...."I don't know what to draw!" "What should I do?" And I have to wonder...did all that standardized testing bleed the creativity out of them?
Thank you for your thoughts on this! So true and so important.

OkinawanGirl Lisa said...

I think all teachers should read this - fabulous point well made! Thanks for sharing!

Jill Christensen said...

I'm a science teacher, not an art teacher. But I believe that art and science are inextricably woven together. All science starts with observation. Drawing teaches children to observe. One of my favorite things is to give a child a magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe and tell them to draw something they see through it. They don't have preconceived ideas about what the microscopic world looks like and so they are free from constraints and will draw what they actually see. And then they will notice things they've never noticed - and that's the place where science and art are joined.

Kelly from Kelly's Classroom said...

Yes, yes, yes! I can't agree with you more!