Nancy Beal/Art Teacher

One Class with Nancy Connections resources
"My philosophy of teaching art can be stated simply. I think primarily in terms of art materials. I teach long-term familiarity with these materials so that children can master them and use them to express their own life experiences. My goal is to have the children feel so comfortable and confident with these materials that they are willing to use them to speak about their innermost thoughts and feelings. I see the materials being as much the teacher as I am."
--The Art of Teaching Art to Children, by Nancy Beal


Offer students an excellent selection of materials.

"You have to have a rich variety.   And that takes scrounging and looking around, and saving, and valuing, and keeping them neat, and cutting off all the ends that are sticking out."

selecting materials: movie clip [35 sec/3.3 MB]
Exploring the materials is a lesson in itself. Structure art activities which encourage exploration of materials and lead to mastery of those materials.
"Also, the materials are speaking to them. So they're working back and forth with the materials. There are kids who have ideas and proceed, and find things that fit their ideas, like feathers fit a turkey, and other kids find a piece of fur, and suddenly they want to make an animal because the fur is talking to them, giving them an idea, which is the way art works, back and forth." 
exploring materials: movie clip [24 sec/1.3 MB]
Give students materials and tools gradually, so that they can appreciate each one and learn skills step by step. This builds the foundations that enable children to transfer their knowledge over time and through other activities.
"At first, I don't give the five- and six-year-olds scissors for collage, although scissors are usually available to them in their classrooms and at home. I put off scissors for a while, because kids are quite intrigued that they do not get to use the scissors, but are happy enough to work without them for a while. Then, when I sense that the children are getting bored, I put out the same materials plus the scissors...By being forced to study these materials and go at it slowly, they begin to find wonderful solutions and to make some amazing things."
learning to cut: movie clip [45 sec/ 4.3 MB]

Make sure materials are appropriate and easy to use.

"Those brushes, by the way, those skinny little brushes, really work incredibly well over the years.   They last for years, and they give a certain flexibility at the end of the brush, to glue with a kind of precision that you can't get with a stiff glue brush or a stick, or even disposing it out of the tube.   If you get those kinds of tools right, the materials right, the kids can find success more easily.   So I think the glue brush out of the jar is very helpful right through with all materials."
learning to glue: movie clip [45 sec/4 MB]
Encourage children throughout the year and the years to come to use the skills they have learned and to apply them to new activities and materials. [See how the activities explored on this website transfer to older age groups]

"I try to extend each material as long as possible, however, to give the kids a chance to truly explore it in depth. Their investigations may require many weeks, months, and even years. This approach produces a rich, personal art, an expression of something the children have explored deeply and to which they have applied their newly acquired skills." The Art of Teaching Art to Children, p. 6.

"The children use the same materials each year: that's the miracle here. I don't have to add glitz."