Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Coloring to perfection

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that Rosie didn't finish her assignment again, and the teachers sent home a very disappointed note along with the incomplete work. I was determined to figure out what is going on, so I sat down with her and asked what was happening.

"I'm too slow, " she said. "And my fingers get tired. All that coloring is very tiring."

It dawned on me that all the work she's brought home is very densely colored and thick with crayon. She's holding the crayons too tightly!! And pressing down too hard!! She's also using multiple colors to fill tiny spaces, so is spending a lot of time making color choices.

We took out all her pages and spread them out at her new desk. There were 4 pages of work, with 3 images to color on the first, 6 on the second, and 18 on the third. Once the images are colored, then she's supposed to trim each of the little pieces out (27 total, mostly circles) and glue them to the fourth page. She spent the entire 45 minutes of classtime coloring in the first page alone! I really think this is crazy boring busy work, but I didn't get anywhere when I told the teacher my opinion about it.

I gave her some tips on how to satisfy her teachers. Press lightly on the crayon, use longer strokes, and use fewer colors to speed up the process. If her fingers get tired, shake out her hand and try holding the crayon in a different position. These suggestions are very dissatisfying to me, on her behalf, because she really seems to love the density of the colors and the process of choosing many different hues for a single shape.

She wants to talk about each (one-inch square) image and make up stories about it, carefully choose the right colors for it. While she's talking, she's not coloring. It took us close to an hour to finish the remainder of her work, with me right there, egging her on. The time quickly ebbs away. This is not creative work. All I can figure is that the teachers just want the students to whisk some scratches of color on, slice away at the paper, glue willy-nilly, and move on to the next segment of the day.


  1. Ugh, that sounds so frustrating for everyone. I think that kind of work is supposed to help hone fine motor skills and teach kids how to follow directions? So, it's not the coloring and gluing that are important, but the fact that kids are learning to concentrate and complete tasks.

    Rosie really is a creative and free-thinking little girl. She's lucky to have a mom that will nurture what the school might inadvertently dampen.

  2. So I found your blog through a friend. I am a pre-school teacher, and what I read just made me cry. In my class first off all our coloring, cutting and gluing are never on photocopied pages. There are better ways. I am very anti-color in the lines since I got chastised as a 4 year-old for drawing the people on the bus and not coloring the bus. Obviously the teacher needs to think of what she is trying to accomplish with the "art" project and realize there are better ways, even if the task is following directions.

    PS Think Dark Crayon colors are the best!

  3. Kelly, I want to nurture, I do! I also am at a bit of a loss as to why Rosie is singularly unable to do what all the other kids are finishing easily? SO frustrating.

    kelseem, welcome! And thank you! I TOTALLY agree with you and Rosie would as well. In preschool, she was sent home with reams of her own drawings on colored construction paper. We are not getting any of that now at all. How sad.

    Sheesh, of course there should be people on the bus! What were your teachers thinking? :-)


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