• Preschool Director

Best Practices: Guided Coloring

Here at Main Street Preschool, we feel it is part of our mission to partner with parents in the education of their children. To that end, this is part of a series called “Best Practices @ Main Street” designed to highlight why we incorporate certain skills, activities and resources into our day at school.

I was one of those kids that through a new box of crayons opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. I remember getting the super box with the sharpener in the back when I was around 5 years of age and thinking that I would never get a gift as wonderful as that one. While it may have just served as a creative outlet for me, this activity can teach so much more with active participation from a teacher. When a teacher is offering instructions throughout a coloring activity, it is called "guided coloring."

Similar to coloring pages where children "coloring by number," in a guided coloring activity the teacher is often giving children oral directions to follow as they color parts of the page one at a time. Note that this is NOT a creative process like an art project where children are using their own forms of expression. Instead, this is designed for introducing executive functioning skills to preschool aged children.

Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

The teacher might say, "I see an animal in the picture. Who can tell me what kind of animal it is?" She then calls on a child who tells her that it is a bird and the teacher instructs them to color the bird blue. This is the only thing a child is coloring. The teacher can quickly assess who is able to find the color, identify the bird, and manage the oral directions in quick order.

Then they move on to the scarecrow. The teacher might say, "I see a figure that looks like a person - but it isn't a person is it? Does anyone remember what we call one of these?" She then calls on a child who can tell her that it is a scarecrow. Then piece by piece, the class colors in the scarecrow. This activity can be complete in one session, or over multiple sessions depending on the attention threshold of the class.

As children complete this activity, the following things are happening:

  • they are developing listening skills

  • they are practicing tracking skills of looking down at a page and then up at the teacher

  • children collaborate on the order the picture is completed

  • fine motor skills are tested as they strive to stay inside the lines

  • if the make a mistake, children learn to problem solve

  • children develop patience as they wait on instruction

These kind of activities make wonderful portfolio pieces that our teachers can use during Spring conferences to show a child's development throughout the school year. This is just one more way we have found to use an activity most of our children naturally enjoy to teach executive functioning skills children need in order to achieve academic success.

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