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Unleashing the artist in your fifth grader

How you can help at home: Try these easy suggestions for encouraging the budding artist in your fifth grader.

By Nancy Roucher, Consulting Educator

Fifth graders are concerned with structure and technical skills. They want to "get it right." Capitalize on this characteristic by suggesting activities as problem-solvers so that your child can have a sense of accomplishment but still realize there are many ways to provide an answer.

Encourage observation

  • Give him an orange to peel. Ask him to investigate every layer and to record the minute details.
  • Ask him to cut a 2-inch square in an index card or paper. Have him look throught the hole at an object, such as a leaf or cereal box, and draw what he sees.

Explore visual elements

  • Suggest a "blind" contour drawing of a simple object. Ask your child to look only at the object, not at the paper.
  • Focus on color value and contrast through shading, stippling, hatching, and washes to experiment with shadows and reflections.
  • Cut out different sizes of shapes, and experiment with overlapping, varying placements on the paper and repetitions for an abstract design.

Suggest new ways to make art

  • Ask your child to go outside and draw a street scene that can be colored later with makers or paint. She may ask for help on perspective.
  • Ask her to have a friend or family member model a certain activity, like playing ball, skating, or dancing. Focus on the way she portrays the "action" of the figure, rather than accuracy.
  • When you are planning a family celebration, ask your child to design and produce the invitations and decorations.
  • It's a good age for a beginning photographer. You can help make a pinhole camera or buy a digital one to introduce photography as an art form.

Encourage music

  • If your child is interested in learning to play, rent, or buy an instrument. If you can play, invite him to play with you.
  • Listen to music — all kinds of music. Have it playing in the background. Your child might not like what you like. But you can encourage him to make good choices by engaging him in conversation about why you like what you like. Then talk to him about why he likes certain songs or types of music.
  • Help him learn about different composers and styles by keeping a musical journal.
  • Go to concerts. There is no substitute for live music and there are free or low-cost concerts offered during the year. Make this an activity for the whole family.

Try these dance and drama activities

  • Encourage your child's response to music through movement by suggesting that she create her own dance.
  • Invite her to learn folk dancing or ballroom dancing. If she has the interest, it may be time for lessons in ballet or jazz.
  • Ask your child to write a play about something that is important to her, such as saving the environment. It must have a plot line — beginning, middle, and end.
  • Go to dance and theater performances as a family.

Nancy Roucher is an arts education consultant from Sarasota, Florida. For 12 years she served as co-director of the Florida Institute for Art Education, a statewide project to help individual school districts implement comprehensive arts education. She consults with schools, museums and arts councils, and has developed a variety of curricular and program materials for arts education.

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