We feel it is important to help young children observe and draw in a variety of ways because it helps them slow down, focus, notice details and draw what they see. Their ability to recognize and draw the shapes of their features is a way of practicing skills that will increase their awareness of line and form. A child's ability to recognize and draw straight and curved lines and to be in control of line will later inform their writing and reading. Drawing portraits can be especially challenging because of the relationships between the spaces of the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Understanding the distances between parts of a visual image can also prepare children for recognizing the spacing in other arenas, including those between words and sentences. We help children begin to understand these relationships by tracing their own faces. Later in the year they will be asked to draw a portrait of someone else who is special and dear to them.
We prepared for these observations by setting up a provocation using natural materials to help Forest Room children notice their facial features. Naming the eyes, ears, mouth and nose as well as the neck and hair was satisfying to the children as they placed rocks, shells and cones on their portraits.
We then put photos of the children on the light table and covered them with a plastic transparency for tracing. We are amazed by the powerful observations of young children as they begin carefully tracing each feature of their face with their finger. We talk about the shapes we see of the eyes, nose, teeth and so on. We talk about the ways their features relate spatially to each other. We use black felt tip markers to do this kind of focused work. We ask them, "What part of your face would you like to trace first?" They respond with enthusiasm and each child has a unique way to begin.
"I see my eyes!"
"I see my teeth!"
"This is my neck!"
"Here are my ears!"
"I see my circles!"
"Here are my ears!"
Young children are capable of making connections between their observations in relationship with what they are seeing, noticing how each part is forming the whole subject of a representation. Their work is careful, well thought out and completed with self revealing intention. The power of their observations hold true to their own perspectives.
Building Relationship Through Interactive Observation
We display this work at their eye level so they can interact with the work of each child. They explore each other's work by lifting the transparencies to notice the relationship between the tracing and the portrait. These interactions encourage connections between the children. Comparing what a friend notices to their own observations brings about even deeper meaning and learning.