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How to teach art to 1st graders on Zoom

Kyra Garabedian

Graphics Editor

Photo via the New Yorker

Well, I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is as challenging as it sounds. However, challenging is not always a bad thing, except in this situation. Alright, well maybe I am exaggerating a bit, there is some good that comes out of the online experience for young students. As teachers and student teachers become more exhausted with the challenges of distance learning, they are also becoming more innovative and creative than ever. As difficult as it may be, I will tell you with confidence teaching first graders on Zoom wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful minds of teachers. The question still remains, should we be requiring young students to learn through Zoom and is it worth it?

This semester, I have had the pleasure of working with a fantastic kindergarten and first grade art teacher for my practicum placement. I am functioning completely online as required by the state, and cannot have any in-person contact with the teacher or her students. However, I am still observing her classes via Zoom and I am currently gearing up to teach my first lesson completely online. The teacher I am paired with has shared many of her experiences with her online students that have helped me understand what works with young students and what doesn’t. I have begun to question whether we should be forcing first grade students to sit in front of a computer in order to “go to school”.

There is nothing quite like explaining to a class of first graders that they need to turn their microphones off because it’s too difficult to hear anything. Then, when you ask a student to turn their mic off, they won’t even be able to hear you. You know what I’m saying though, some college classes can be like this too. It’s also very difficult to keep the attention of a young student for an extended period of time on the computer. I have observed situations where the teacher relies heavily on work students complete outside of class time as where they do most of their learning. There are many factors that can limit a young first grader’s ability to complete classwork and look at learning materials when they are not in face-to-face with their teacher. They will often be working on their own without the presence of their peers which is an important aspect of the development of young children. Students lose out on a great deal of social contact with others that they would normally have in the classroom which can also make Zoom a little scary for some students.

I don’t think I would change my mind about distance learning on Zoom being more difficult than in person learning, but I will share some of the wonderful things I have experienced while observing classes with my practicum placement. Being on Zoom gives students the ability to use materials they find at home for their art projects. I have enjoyed watching students come back from “scavenger hunts” to show materials they gathered and can use for their projects. Students will be given the opportunity to find materials they wouldn’t normally use in school and have fun with them. This is a great way to improvise and have fun with students who are at home and might not have typical art materials.

Overall, there are pros and cons of distance learning as many of us have realized by now. It’s no secret that it is a challenge for younger students, even though there are some beneficial aspects of the online format. I think it’s important for teachers to understand what they are asking of their young students and realize they need to be creative and think outside the box in order to make the online teaching of first grade as great as it can be. It requires a significant amount of effort from teachers as it’s crucial to the learning and development of our students.


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