Art is important. Even as adults, we do enjoy engaging in different form of arts. The art has been associated with private leisure experience, separated from the main business of life. The arts are naturally playful however we should not associate it as unrealistic or lack of seriousness (Swanwick, 1988). Playing is part of learning and arts can help children flourish personally and emotionally (Swanwick, 1988). The arts are complementary part of a broad education; the arts when taught well can help raise attainment in other areas as they are intimately entwined with other learning areas (Arts in Schools Project, 1990).
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Drama comes naturally to young children and they are often engaging in pretend play. Children dramatic experience should be supported in school with activities that develop the child’s ability to use his or her imagination, body and voice. Drama allows preschoolers to express themselves freely and interact with others.
Some dramatic activities in which have been conducted in class since the taught module was drama games and role-play. The activities conducted were the “Jungle game” (similar to fruit salad) and “freeze game”. Through the activities, the children were encouraged to explore the limitations and the possibilities of movement inside a given space. The children learnt to share space with others and how to relate to others playful way. They explored how space, and people or objects in space, can have symbolic and dramatic meanings (Winston and Tandy, 2009).
During the period of time, we were working on the theme of animals, thus I made use of some of the games taught during the module and modified a little. The children were from the age range 4 to 6 years old. There were two new children who were in the class for less than a month. They were Chinese expatriate and did not understand English. One child was more shy and withdrawn. He usually only interacts with the other child who was also from China. However during the activity, all the children were seen engaging in the activity. At first during “Jungle game” the children were given new role which are different types of animals in the jungle. They had to swopped places when their animals were called; when “hunter” is called out, everyone had to swop places. In the process, some children were seen knocking into each other and most only went to the few seats away from them. However, after a few rounds with the game, they were able to explore the possible movement inside the specified place. The children were able to explore and share the space without knocking into each other. Even the two China boys were able to engage in the activity and pretended to be the animals by imitating their movements as they move in the circle. As for the “freeze” game, the children pretended to be animals moving in the jungle, avoiding to be caught by the hunter. It was surprised that the children imitated the sounds of the animals as they moved when it was not told to them that they had to. It was amazing how dramatic games can lead children into different world showing their different side and creativity.
Another activity conducted was interview of the character in the story. During that period we were working on the theme of animals, thus I made use of the story “The forest child” and pretended to be the hunter. The children were really involved in the activity and took turns to ask questions. That was the first time that we engaged in this kind of activity thus the children were excited and eager to ask questions. After several questions, I was surprised that the boys from China actually put up their hands and asked question: “Why you so angry”. I did not think that they could understand the activity we were engaging in, not to even say ask question using English language, which was a foreign language to them. Through this activity, the children could enter into the world of the story and try to find solutions. As the children are familiarised with the activity, they took turns to be the hunter.
Through the activities, the children learnt to take turns by respecting other’s contribution, develop spatial awareness, and explore own body possibilities through imitating of different characters. Minimum props were used during the activities to encourage more imagination. Through imaginative play, children are experimenting with and learning how to manage the core elements of drama, those of time, space, people, action objects and subject matter (Winston and Tandy, 2009).
Drama is a great way in providing children the opportunities to learn about themselves and others. It encourages interaction with each other and learn about body and spatial awareness. During drama, children are also encouraged to think differently. During role-play, they can become others, enhancing the creativity, and encouraging them to think about what certain people might think, say, or do in a given situation. It allows children to hide behind a mask and to be different.
Music is a way of knowing the life of feeling (Langer as cited in Swanwick, 1988). In our preschool setting, we did not have much chance for musical activity during lesson time. It was usually during enrichment programmes which several children will go for their music lessons. During the module, many fun and meaningful activities were taught which could be implemented into the preschool setting.
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The activity that was conducted with the children was making music through musical instruments. I made used of the activities planned with my group during the module presentation, which was regarding the story of “Big Al”. The children were provided with musical instruments such as bells, tambourine, cymbal, maracas, drum, triangle and some other traditional musical instruments that were made of bamboos. The children were given the opportunities to choose and play the instruments according to different emotions and scenarios of the story. Music was combined with drama work in this case. Half of the children in the class acted out the story while the others created effects for the dramatisation using the instruments. The children had to imagine that they were in the story. According to Swanwick (1988), young children enjoy very loud and very soft sounds and are fascinated by tone and timbre and they can begin to see music as expressive. It can be observed during the activity. The children enjoyed exploring the loudness of sound produced from musical instrument. When it was exciting situation, they played the music fast and loud, and soft when sad. They were able to determine the speed of music by playing the various musical instruments. The children were able to create different expression using music. During the activity, two older boys were observed to be leading the group in the change of the music. Working in cross-age groups enables younger children to observe and learn from more experienced learners, while the opportunity to scaffold the learning of younger children enables the older children to clarify their thinking (Duffy, 1998, p.116).
According to Duffy (1998), children need sufficient place to work and easily accessible resources if they are to make the best use of creative and imaginative experiences. Thus educators should provide more experience for art activities even when outside of lessons. After the module, I tried the method of giving the children freedom of recording. Recorder was introduced to the children and it was placed in the music corner in the classroom. After a week, to my surprised, I heard the voices of the two boys from China with a few other children from the recording. At first they said their name and begun humming some unfamiliar music (probably self-composed) with accompany of the musical instruments. When they sang louder, the music became louder too. This showed that they could make use of the tempo and dynamics according to the different emotions. There was expression in the music formed. Through the activities, the children could develop musical awareness and skills in terms of tempo and dynamics.
Elements of play
According to Swanwick (1998), the three elements of play significant to learning through arts are mastery, imitation and imaginative play. All these three elements were evident during the implementation of the activities. For mastery, the children were able to learn to work with others to make dramatic meaning and control of the musical instruments, keeping consistent rhythm. For imitation, the children were able to deal with the expressive nature of the art form. They were able to make musical sounds that suggest different scenarios. Lastly for imaginative play, the children could experiment with musical instruments until it suggest the appropriate scenario. The children were also seen experimenting with different movement during dramatic play. Practice motivates children as practice teaches them how to concentrate which in turns leads them to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of art they are learning and the pleasures of producing work of quality (Winston, 2010, p.77). If we wish children to be creative, we should ensure that all children feel valued and accepted; thus children will feel secure to take risks or make mistakes (Duffy, 1998). That was apparent in the case of the two Chinese boys who were at first withdrawn from the group and slowly got into the activities, engaging with the others.
As children grow, it seems that much of the school day is taken up by core subjects; creativity and imagination are often treated as additional or luxury. Thus it is the role of the educators in helping to ensure that the children have opportunities to engage in creative and imaginative experience (Duffy, 1998). A cross-curricular approach allows us to draw on the appeal ad potential of creative experiences to encourage learning and development in all areas of the curriculum.
Children should be active participants in their learning. With appropriate planning, we can connect art with many other areas of the curriculum. This can provide valuable opportunities to place learning in real life experience by making stories and living through them, rather than hearing them told by the teacher. Arts provide creative release for children; children will have fun while they are learn, enhancing a lifelong desire for learning.
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