Visual Arts

Two students, S1 and S2, were at the play dough centre, talking together and creating objects.

E: I like your creation. Tell me about what you are making,

S1: We’re baking cookies. Good cookies. Do you want one?

S2: I’m hungry!

E: Me too! What kind of cookies are you making?

S2: Chocolate chip! My favourite!

E: Who are you making the cookies for?

S1: Everyone!

E: Everyone in our class? You are going to need some help!

S3: What are you doing?

E: I am glad you are here. S1 and S2 want to make cookies for the whole class. Can you help?

S3: Can I have the rolling pin? What size do you want?

S4: What are you doing?

E: How many are in our class?

S1: You have all of the dough.

E: How much dough do we have all together? How big are you going to make the cookies?

S4: If we use this [playdough container rim] all of the cookies can be the same.

E: How thick should the cookies be? Can you find something on the table that is the right thickness?

S2: This marker cap?

E: I think that could work. Your cookie, and this marker lid are both about 1 cm thick. S2, can you please bring over our can of rulers? How can we use a rule or a marker lid to make all of the cookies the same size?

S4: You could go like this [ S4 shows how to lie the marker lid as a non-standard measure].

S3: We have a lot of work to do!

Consider what we learned about this group of students. An activity that many would question as to its educational purpose (it does not look like an academic activity) became the catalyst for both a  teaching opportunity and as assessment opportunity for mathematics. By guiding the play and the conversation,  I was able to extend the mathematical thinking of this group of children and to document my observations for future analysis and evaluation.


The teacher observed that Kayann was at the paintng centre and was mixing paint colours together on her picture.


T–”How were you able to make that colour Kayann?”

S–”First you take some red and then you mix in some blue, like this, and you get purple!”

T–”That’s great! Do you know how to make any other colours?”

S–”Yes! If you mix some red with some yellow, like this, (she demonstrates on her painting) you get orange!”

T– “Wow! That’ amazing!”


S–”And I can make another colour too, like this. (She mixes yellow and blue) Look! I get green!”

T–”You’ve made some interesting colours. I wonder if you can make any more. What do you think will happen if you try to mix the three colours you’ve mixed already–some red, blue and yellow.”


S–”Let’s see. Can I just try it?” 

She mixes the three colours together.

S–”OH!!! A mud colour! Brown! I found out how to make brown! It’s kind of a muddy colour!”

T–”That’s exciting!”

S–”Yes, and you know, I know how to make another colour..I know how to make white, but I can’t tell you how because it’s a secret!. I can tell you just a little. Some of the colours you use are pink and yellow but that’s all I can tell you!”


Kayann then invited a friend to join her and she asked her to add some ideas of her own to the painting. Another student, Sarah, sat down beside them and discussed the painting.

Sarah–”I really like your painting Kayann. I want to copy some of it because your painting is so beautiful. But I’m going to make some other things in my painting too.”

Kayann allowed her to copy it for a short time and then she removed her painting from the easel.


Sarah–”I didn’t put a tree like Kayann but I put a pink sky and some dots and the stars are moving.

T–”How did you show that the stars are moving?”

Sarah–”I put some stripes beside the stars so that tells you that they’re moving!”

T–”That’s a good idea!”

Sarah–”O.K! I’m done!”

This has been an area of focus for us. We moved this space to be close to the windows so that the natural light could shine into the studio.


We added a new shelf for our clear bins of creative materials. The clear bins allow the children to make independent choices. They will be filled with the collections of an assortment of found materials that children will bring in. Just like we did at the end of last year, we have planned for the children to work with the materials without fastening or gluing any of them down right away. We realized that this allowed for more experimentation and creativity. Last year we just had an easel in the centre so this whole area is different now. We are going to talk with the children about sorting materials and giving them places to save their work so they can return and continue working. We used folders and are storing them on the shelf.

We will include a sample in a future blog.

We were inspired by the book Beautiful Stuff – Lela Gandidni