Throughout my career in teaching, there has been no shortage of colleagues who have made the remark that faced with a blank sheet of paper; kids don’t know what to do with it. Sadly, many have not developed their imaginations enough to conceive of their own ideas. Others believe they cannot draw and therefore won’t accept the challenge to create something on the paper. With middle school students, I discovered that when asked to draw something that relates to a story we read in class, students still have problems getting started. It is as though they haven’t formed any pictures in their heads about what we read. Some simply try to copy the artist’s depiction offered on the cover of the book.
To achieve any modicum of success with an open ended assignment, whether it is writing, drawing, or through some other medium, requires some type of direction in order to nudge a student to begin. Sometimes, this nudge can take the form of an outline which the class begins together, a brainstorming session to generate topics of interest, constructing the beginning as a group, and so on. Research has indicated that students living in environments where the child is either over-stimulated for extreme amounts of time or under-stimulated because there is a lack of social interaction; often require more structure than others. It is believed that safety and consistency provided through an ordered, structured environment allows children from disadvantaged homes to open up to new experiences. Furthermore, imagination and creativity can bloom in a structured, ordered environment.
Many preschool teachers have been educated to follow a strict constructivist philosophy which dictates that in a developmentally appropriate classroom, teachers are not supposed to direct children’s activities and they are only supposed to facilitate their learning by