Thursday, July 24, 2014

From scribbles to portraits - early childhood drawing

My little girl turned three recently. She loves dressing up, acting out her favourite stories, playing with toys, exploring, singing and drawing. Her first forays into art were 'making marks' on a page as she held a crayon in her hand and pushed it at the paper in front of her. This progressed to scribbling as her grip improved, usually back and forth scribbles then circular in motion. Next came scribbles that definitely demonstrated more control such as a drawing of round shapes on one part of the page then another part of the page. She is now drawing faces and to be honest it happened quite quickly, one day she was drawing circles and the next that circle became a face. This development in drawing led me to search for information on children's artwork and the stages that young children go through when drawing. 

My daughter attends nursery and they have explained that they encourage drawing by providing the children access to a wide selection of materials, like we do at home. And like many parents we have a collection of drawings and paintings adorning our home. I wanted to find out more about children's drawing and decided to search online for research, examples and anything else that would help me learn more. The research I have looked suggests that the earliest drawing is mark making leading to the Scribble Stage around the age of 18 months - 2 years old. Scribbling can be broken down into four sub stages (Lowenfeld, 1978)
1. Disordered scribbling
2. Longitudinal scribbling
3. Circular scribbling
4. Named scribbling

This picture was drawn by my daughter when she was 18 months. As she drew this I sat beside her asking what she was drawing.

Named scribbling
She told a story as she drew the picture - a big fish with legs and it was raining. As I teach in Foundation Stage I wrote these explanations down and gave a copy to her nursery to be included in her Learning Journey. Over the next few months her drawings have progressed from named scribbling to what is termed the pre-schematic stage (ages 3 - 4 years) which is characterised by circular images that include lines representing arms/legs. This pre-schematic stage is a stage of symbols where a drawn symbol can stand for a real thing in the environment. (Betty Edwards, 'Creative and Mental Growth') 

These stages of development are fascinating reading, particularly if you work with younger children and I shall refer to them throughout the year ahead when I return to the Foundation Stage classroom. 
For now, here is my daughter's latest drawing complete with arms and legs.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Digital footprint design

I recently noticed that my online presence, my digital footprint, was a little disjointed and the overall effect was a hotchpotch of images that didn't quite give my audience a picture of who I was or what I did. I had a background image for my G+ profile that was different from my YouTube background that was different from my Blogger header image that was different from my Twitter profile and so on. So today I have spent a few hours designing my digital footprint, my online identity, to ensure that who I am and what I do is no longer lost in a mess of graphics across the many platforms I use.

I started by looking at the three words that best describe me. I use these as a tagline across every platform I use: teacher, artist, musician. Next I thought about the design and I decided to focus on my YouTube Channel art first as this would involve the largest image size out of all the social media sites I use regularly. If you have a YouTube page then I suggest you take a look at Google's support page for further information. The YouTube channel art is the image that sits on top of your page, many people will choose an image provided or, as I did, upload a photo from their collection. The image looks quite small but it all depends on what device you are using to view the page. Google's support page recommends a single image of 2560 x 1440 pixels that is optimised for various devices. You create an image that works for your YouTube Channel, but also for a mobile device and viewed on a television. Depending on the device more or less of the uploaded image will be used so you need to design your layout carefully.

I used Keynote to do this as it suited my needs perfectly as I never needed the power of Photoshop or similar image editors. I used Keynote's colour picker to create a simple colour scheme and I also added a torn photo effect to some of my images. Whatever image editor or tool you use make sure you set the image size to 2560 x 1440 px otherwise the image you create, once uploaded, will not fit correctly.

My YouTube Channel Art
I then used this image as the basis for the rest of my digital footprints across the social media sites I use.

My Twitter banner

My Google+ cover photo

I'm quite happy with the cohesion that this design has given to my digital footprint. If you have suggestions about how I could improve it then let me know.

Image sizes required.

YouTube - 2560 x 1440 px (text and logo safe area is 1546 x 423 px)
Google+ - 1080 x 608 px recommended
Twitter - 1500 x 500 px

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Developing a sense of number in the Early Years

Children come into the Early Years Foundation Stage with an array of mathematical abilities and understanding of number. Their world may be filled with numbers (for example in books, television and film, nursery rhymes and songs, shops, signs, counting with parents) but that does not necessarily mean they have an understanding of number sense. 

Early Years and Kindergarten teachers will assess the children in their class within the first couple of weeks to build a picture of every child's understanding, skills and knowledge in many areas, number is one such area. When asked to count to 10 or 20, a 4 year old will happily plough through a mantra learned by heart to impress the teacher/parents/whoever asks. That child will think they can count to 10 but rhyming off numbers is not counting. This rhyming of a number sentence is certainly a skill that children learn at an early age, the next step is to learn the value of each number, its cardinal, and this is best done using practical, concrete objects. I have found when you give a young child a set of objects to count, the counting activity and its correct result could depend on the following.
  1. The number of objects given to count
  2. The number of objects the child is able to count confidently
  3. How long the number sentence mantra is the child has learned
  4. Whether a finger is used to count or not
  5. Whether the child looks at the objects whilst counting them or looks at you
  6. How the objects are placed
Point 6 is one which I started using more and more with children to assess whether the counting strategy used was a mixture of points 1 to 5 or if they had started to develop the cardinal of a number. Try this, look at the following groups of objects. How many are in each group? Try to do this without counting the objects individually then check by counting.

You will most likely have counted them using either fig. 2 or 3 as these use an arrangement we are familiar with. If you checked by individually counting the objects you will have found fig.1 to have one less than the others, it has 14. Now, how did you count the objects in fig.1? Did you start at the top and work your way across and down in lines, or did you start at the bottom and work up? Did you employ another method? A 4 year old child will probably not have developed such a method to work out the value of the group so may start counting from a random dot and go over the actual number due to counting over dots again, or count to a known high number in the hope of impressing you. What we take for granted is in fact a difficult and challenging concept for many young children to grasp. 

By counting the group of dots correctly in fig.1, the child has moved from merely using number names to recognising that numbers have a value. The next step is to develop an understanding that numbers can be added together and I'll explore this in my next blogpost.