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Internship Reflection:
Exploring Visual Arts Education within an Early Childhood Classroom:
Mountain View Elementary- NC Pre-K Classroom

Clarissa Darnell
FCS 5900
Child Development Birth-Kindergarten
Teaching Concentration

Department of Family and Consumer Sciences
Appalachian State University

April 14, 2014




Visual art expression provides a creative avenue for young children to create images of
things, both concrete and imaginative (Bea, 2004). To enhance the progression of
development of this skill for my students, the focus of my internship proposal was to
further develop my teaching style in order to promote such ability and skill development
within this avenue through play. Throughout this internship experience, my specific focus
was to become more intentional with my activity planning and implementation of Visual
Arts history and techniques with my students. By doing so, I sought to provide my
students with creative arts experiences that were interest-driven, as well as culturally and
developmentally diverse, in order to increase their knowledge base and use of materials
for creative expression within the classroom art center, while building on their overall
artistic development and skill.
Prior to the internship, I accepted the chance to pursue studying current research
on this topic; creative expression through visual arts. I located research about the
importance of visual arts to the development of young children and how developmentally
appropriate learning opportunities should be made available to the children within Early
Childhood classrooms. From the research, I learned that children choose to engage in
visual arts activities as a form of play with one of four possible purposes in mind;
mastery, belonging, generosity, and independence (Griebling, 2011). Griebling (2011),
explains this theory as children choose to engage in art activities in order to building
upon or increasing their own skills level or comfort in attaining a goal, leading to
autonomy and independence, while also utilizing the process as an avenue for

establishing connections and relationships with others and securing a feeling of belonging
within a group or environment.
In order to most effectively foster skill development, progression, and mastery of
goals the children set for themselves, it was also beneficial to gain an understanding from
my research that there are three specific teaching orientations for Visual Arts Education
in regards to presenting materials, concepts and ideas to young children; the littleinteraction orientation, the product orientation, and the guided-exploration orientation
Bea (2004). Author, Ji-Hi Bea (2004) explains the differences in the varying degrees of
teacher intervention between the three approaches. The little-intervention approach is
characterized by children serving as the facilitators of their own learning, as the role of a
teacher within this approach is only to provide the environment and materials necessary
to allow children to manipulate and explore without little input from teachers. This
approach differs entirely from that of the product orientation approach and the way in
which teachers engage with children when using this method. Teachers that follow the
product orientation approach provide pre-planned, instructional visual arts lessons and
present activities to the children in which they are expected to follow directions or to
imitate the actions and products of teachers without waver, allowing for little to no time
for free exploration of materials or concepts. The third teaching approach, guidedexploration approach, encompasses aspects of both the little-intervention approach and
the product orientation approach as it balances direct teaching practices to guide student
learning and providing opportunities for the children to freely explore with provided
materials and various art techniques. This approach capitalizes on Lev Vygotsky’s
ideology of the “zone of proximal development”, as the teacher’s role is to interactively


scaffold the artistic development of children through practices such as demonstrations
and discussions. The blend is found within the guided-exploration approach in that direct
teaching is utilized in moderation and at an appropriate level while time for free
exploration is permitted within an intentionally organized and established environment
(Bea, 2004).
Within the time of the internship experience, my goal was to transform my
teaching practice from the little-intervention approach to that of the more structured and
purposeful orientation of the guided-exploration method by providing my students with
adequate open-ended art materials, while also conducting and facilitating formal art
lessons about art history and techniques in a way that would be developmentally
appropriate and interesting to my students. After conducting informative lessons during
group meetings, both large and small group, the children were provided adequate time to
explore techniques, during which I prompted meaningful discussion with the children;
focusing conversation on descriptive features-directly reflecting on pictured illustrations,
analytical features-including visual elements, art materials, and comparisons, features of
interpretation-themes and emphases, atmosphere and design, and judgmental featuresemotions and meanings evoked from observing art works. During the exploration phase,
I devoted time to observing the responses of the children; the interest, engagement and
developmental skills evident. These activities and engagements were utilized to meet the
specific goals established for this internship experience.
Goal 1
I will plan and carry out visual arts lessons with reference to famous art practices during
large and small group meetings, while providing appropriate materials as related to




relevant activities and opportunities during self-initiated play to encourage the children to
explore and create with the various materials and techniques.
Goal 2
I will provoke conversation and discussion among the children related to the studied
works of art, techniques used and artists during group activities and within interactions
with the children in the art center during self-initiated play in order to encourage the
children to verbally express concepts such as the process of which the children choose to
engage in creation and about their completed works.
Goal 3
I will create meaningful and respectful display and storage areas within the classroom
designated for exhibiting and preserving the completed visual arts products by my
students in order to draw attention and positive recognition to the creations and allow
children to revisit and reflect on their work.
Visual Arts Experience
During the first week of the internship, I began by discussing plans of change with the
children during large group meetings and small group interactions during free-choice
center time. Plans were then carried out and changes were made to the classroom
environment in order to enhance the art center and the display of visual arts creations of
the children. To spark interest in the art center, the materials in the center were
rearranged and reorganized to make the space more aesthetically pleasing and inviting to
the children. More specifically, the shelves and table were relocated to make the center
more open and to allow the children to more easily maneuver and work on tasks, both
together and independently. Once the shelves were placed in the new location, the

available materials on the shelves were re-organized to make the items more accessible
and appealing. Specific examples of changes made to reorganized the materials include
placing the collage materials in easy-open glass canisters on shelf top rather than the
opaque plastic tubs previously used and separating drawing tools (crayons, colored
pencils, and markers) by color and medium and placing each in glassware, atop mirrored
tiles as opposed to a compiled collection stored in baskets. Lastly, within the center, the
shelves of the drying rack were lined with removable Plexiglas boards labeled with each
child’s name and photo. The shelves were assigned in this manner to provide each child
with a designated, protected storage area for each child’s work, whether completed or in
To expand on the idea to create a more aesthetically-pleasing art area within the
classroom, one specific goal I had set for this internship experience was to create a more
meaningful and respectful method of displaying the work created by the children. My
intention was to foster the development of autonomy and a feeling of importance among
my students. This goal drove the decision to re-arrange the art area in the classroom in
effort to create storage and display place as indicated within one of my goals. In addition
to this, I hung one large display frame for each child around the walls of the classroom
and labeled the frame with the child’s name and photograph. The frames provide a
neutral canvas complementary of the completed works chosen for display.
The selection process for displaying work was also adapted. I wanted to move
away from myself and my teaching assistant choosing the works for display, rotating the
pieces on a monthly basis, so I decided to incorporate the children into this decision
process. I spoke with the children in informal conferences sessions about the art pieces


created and allowed them to choose how the pieces would be used; the children could
choose to take the artifacts home or give them to a friend, place them in their portfolio, or
to hang them on display in their frame. The work(s) placed in the frames were always
selected by the children and were periodically rotated according to the desires of each
child as expressed during the conferences. Artifacts that were selected for placement in a
child’s work portfolio was labeled with the appropriate date and filed accordingly in the
binder. The storage of the portfolio binders were another aspect of relocation at the
beginning of this period. The student portfolios, collection of work samples from
throughout the school year, were relocated from placement above my computer desk to a
shelf space within the art center, making them accessible to the children. The folders
were also labeled in the same way the display frames and the storage shelves, with the
child’s name and photo. The children were encouraged to look through and to add pieces
to their portfolio at any time.
Once the environmental changes were made, I began focusing on planning and
conducting lessons about various art concepts and techniques. Throughout the duration
of the internship period, the implementation of Goal 1, to plan and carry out visual arts
lessons with reference to famous art practices, while opportunities to encourage the
children to explore and create with the various materials and techniques and Goal 2, to
provoke conversation and discussion among the children related to the studied works of
art, techniques used and artists to encourage verbal expression were interconnected and
continually addressed. Through group discussions, both large and small group, specific
art concepts, various artists, art styles and techniques were introduced, followed by
planned learning opportunities being made available to the children during free-choice


play time to encourage exploration. Throughout the course of the internship period, four
techniques were introduced to the children, along with association and referencing of the
famous artist that used each style; the techniques were, in chronological order, abstract
expression of action painting referencing the work of Jackson Pollock, still-life painting
referencing the work of Vincent van Gogh, mural painting referencing work of
Michelangelo, and pointillism painting referencing work of Georges Seurat. When
presenting new concepts or reviewing specific concepts and techniques with the children
during group discussions, I utilized reference material from various media sources,
including replication prints, books, and internet web searches. Large group discussion
was encouraged when viewing prints and photos of works in order to draw attention to
details and the precise methods and techniques used to create the works. After discussing
new techniques or to further expand presented concepts, associated activities were set up
in the art center as provocation or invitation to draw the attention and interest of the
children for exploration. Such activities that were set up include splatter painting with
various tools when studying action painting and presenting real flower displays when
focusing on creating still-life replications. As the children chose to engage in the
activities, I made myself available in the center to prompt and facilitate discussion and
interaction about the process in which the children were using, the product they were able
to create, and reflecting on how they felt about their involvement in the activity. Also, as
I worked in the center with the children, I took dictation of information shared by the
children, as well as photographs of the children engaging in the activity. I utilized the
narrations and photographs for display on classroom bulletin boards or as children
selected works to be displayed in their photo frames. The displays were created to share


information about our project of study with parents and family member, school personnel
and administrators and other visitors to our classroom.
It was not only important to me to expose the children to new visual arts
techniques and concepts, but also to educate and inform the parents’ of the children about
the art experiences taking place in the classroom. On a regular basis, weekly or biweekly,
I wrote a classroom newsletter to send home in each child’s MOOSE book (daily
communication folder) about specific activities taking place in the classroom. The
newsletter publications served as an avenue of educating parents about art education
concepts being explored by the children within the classroom. Exact information about
the art concepts and referenced artists were shared with families in order to encourage
communication and interaction between parents and their child at home. Photographs of
the children engaging in the related activities and photographs highlighting works created
were also included to draw interest. The newsletters consistently invited parents into the
classroom to view the displays. Because transportation needs limit some parents from
visiting the classroom regularly, two parent night sessions were planned for after school
hours to showcase the work of the children at the completion of an art study. An art
activity was planned for each parent night session to allow the family members to explore
the concepts with the children, just as activities took place in the classroom. Dinner was
provided for families at each parent night session to minimize the worry and concern of
making arrangements prior to or following the event. I asked families to complete a
survey at the end of each session to express their satisfaction with the event. The
responses received were gratifying.




Throughout the execution of all purposed plans throughout this experience, I feel
that I learned a great deal about my students, as well as myself as a teaching professional.
I gained a great deal of insight to the interests of my children by becoming a more careful
observer and by focusing a greater attention to engaging in conversations and discussion
with my student about their works, about both the processes used and the outcomes and
products produced. By becoming more intentional with planning and providing materials
through provocation, while continuing to allow the children to freely choose and explore
the activities, I was able to see learning take place as the children continued to develop
and refine skills within all developmental domains. The lessons I learned from this
experience did and will continue to provide direction for transforming and adapting my
teaching practices.
Reflecting on the activities that took place and the responses of the children
throughout, I have also realized ways in which I adapted and transformed my own
teaching practices in order to meet the specific needs and interest of the children. I feel
that the transformations began within the first week of the experience and continued to
develop and mature throughout the duration of this period.
I feel that the most beneficial transformation I made to my teaching practice was
the level in which I engaged and interacted with the children to facilitate and scaffold
their learning, following their interests and cues along the way to make adjusts and
modifications to original plans as needed. I feel that my attention to the activities and
interactions of the children, among themselves and with use of the materials, in the art
area has become more sophisticated and refined. Beginning in the first week, I devoted

time to closely observing and listening to the children in a way that I had never taken the
opportunity to do before. With my focus being on the art area throughout the project
focus, I found that I was able to engage in more conversations and interactions in the
center and to participate more productively in the learning taking place among my
students, from the planning stage of their work to encouraging them to reflect upon
completion. From my observations, I was shocked and impressed the way that the
simplistic environmental changes influenced the level at which the children engaged in
the center. Having intentionality to organized and displayed materials in a more
aesthetically pleasing manner, proved to draw more children to the art area and seemed to
increase their focus and attention to task. Creating open-ended provocations or invitations
to play has been a relatively new concept for me to use within my teaching practices, as I
worked to more consistently to create provocations within the art center during this
internship experience. Although, it was difficult for me to allow the children to freely
explore and manipulate materials at times, especially when the children did not always
engage with the materials in the way that I had initially planned for and intended them to
be, each time I was impressed by the response of the children. Throughout, the children
demonstrated skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, mastery of motivation,
and overall refined independence and confidence. The experiences were eye-opening for
me as to how allowing the children to freely explore can be both enjoyable and rewarding
for me, just as much as for the children.
Even from the beginning, it was noticeable that the children were curious and
motivated to engage in planned art opportunities. This motivation also carried over into
additional self-initiated exploration and free-choice creative expression opportunities


within the art center. The degree in which the children choose the materials and used
them to create was more intentional and purposeful. I feel that if I had not engaged with
the children and devoted the observational focus I used, I would have missed out on
many cues to interests and needs from my students. With this level of engagement in the
art center, observing and facilitating activities, taking a great deal of time and direct
attention, it was required of me to delegate other classroom activities and responsibilities
to my teaching assistant and the co-operative teacher working in my classroom this
semester. Feeling comfortable with delegating classroom responsibilities to my
colleagues has always been a very difficult task for me as I struggle with trusting others
to facilitate learning activities and I feel that I would miss crucial teaching opportunities.
However, with my capabilities to manage all situations and events being limited while
maintaining focus on the plans for this project, I reassigned certain responsibilities and
provided my co-teachers with direction for facilitating other opportunities within the
classroom. At the beginning of each week, the three of us would sit down and discuss
plans for the week and would delegate responsibilities accordingly. The outcome was
very positive. The children responded well to facilitation of the other teachers and I was
able to learn specific strengths and weaknesses of each of them. My observations of them
in the leadership role allowed me to capitalize on their strengths and understand how I
could help them grow professionally. I, myself, grew professionally from this experience,
as I developed confidence in the ability of my co-teachers to share ideas, suggestions, and
carry out the planned activities. I often observed them making their own modifications
and adaptions to the activities and situations they were handling; modifications that were
appropriate and effective. This was a beneficial experience for me as I developed trust in


them and was able to learn new approaches and ideologies that I had not previously
considered. I gained an appreciation for learning from them just as I passionately
practice doing so with my students, following their lead and interests.
I completely owe the credit of my transformation to the children and my
colleagues, as they demonstrated to me throughout this process that they are worthy of
recognition and respect for their role in the classroom and their contributions. The
children presented me with many reasons to be proud and impressed by their level of
commitment with each activity provocation presented and to the development of this
project in general. Not only do I better understand, by I also appreciate the importance of
following the lead of the children, learning from their verbalizations and non-verbal cues;
learning more about each student, as well as myself throughout the entire process.
I do feel that this internship experience was positive and that the learning
objectives were effective and beneficial to me and the children, but in reflection I have
recognized aspects and situations that I would handle differently if repeating the project
in the future. The first change I would make would be to allow for more time when
introducing new concepts and techniques. Inclement weather influenced the time
allowed for implementation of proposed plans, causing many activities and opportunities
to feel rushed and affecting the interest the children had in the presented opportunities. I
feel that I set my goals for achievement too high in regards to the number of concepts I
wished to cover within the time allotted. In the future, I would base plans off the response
of the children and their cues for continuing with a participial focus or adapting and
moving forward with a new concept. I found the clarity in the philosophy that “more is
not always best”. I want to allow my students adequate time to delve into exploring


concepts and techniques for deeply in order for the process of developing and learning
from their engagement to be most beneficial to each of them. As part of allowing the
children more time to explore and reflect on new knowledge and understanding, I would
like to incorporate a period of “down time” between the introduction of new concepts to
allow the children to revisit concepts at their leisure and manipulate reapply ideas and
techniques in new contexts. I feel that by I allowed myself to step back and remove any
influence and “pressure” that provocations and activities setup may render, the children
could more freely explore and create according to their personal goals and purposes. I
feel this opportunity would beget an experience conducive to learning for the children
and enjoyable to watch and interact for me.
Another aspect that I would wish to improve is the amount of reference material
available to me and the children, especially the specific concepts and techniques
explored. I relied extensive on internet webpage searches, specifically Google image
searches, due to limited time to purchasing or borrowing materials. I feel that having
materials available in a hardcopy, the results would be more effective as the children
would have the opportunity to closely examine and revisit the items rather than just brief
episodes of exposure. I have since located top-rated books and other materials that I feel
could positively influence the outcomes and learning potential of this project focus and I
plan to expand on my repertoire of materials for future use.
In conclusion, I am very grateful for this experience, as I feel that I was able to
put into practice ideologies and philosophies that I have learned and gained over the
course of my graduate school career. I look forward to continuing to mature as a teaching
professional as my practices changes, adapt and become more sophisticated. I appreciate


my students and my colleagues, as I more clearly understand the impact both parties have
on the transformations I have made and will continue to make throughout my teaching




Bea, J. (2004). Learning to teach visual arts in an early childhood classroom: The
teacher’s role as a guide. Early Childhood Education Journal, 31(4), 247-254.
Retrieved September 30, 2013 from
Griebling, S. (2011). Discoveries from a reggio-inspired classroom: Meeting
developmental needs through the visual arts. Art Education, 64(2), 6-11.
Retrieved September 30, 2013 from