A Clipboard and a Pen: Inquiry through Art

Encouraging inquiry through art - An Everyday Story
Sometimes Jack has grand plans, designs in his head that he has difficulty expressing in words. Sometimes frustration levels boil over as he tries and tries to get a microphone made from an old CD and a pipe-cleaner to stick to his drums, or to build a moveable arm for a forklift from Lego and it just won’t work.

Sometimes he is so frustrated from trying that all I can get from Jack is a series of broken words between angry sobs.

Enter the clipboard and a pen.

‘I’m not quite sure what you are trying to build Jack, would you like to draw your idea here? That might help me to understand.’

‘What is your plan, Jack? What would you like to happen?’

Making ideas visible through art - An Everyday StoryA clipboard, some clean white paper and an Artline marker have given Jack a means to make his intentions visible. He can draw his ideas and show them to me. And even though his sketches and designs may not be distinguishable out of context, in the moment, while he draws he talks. He talks about what he wants to happen, what he wants to build. His frustrations quickly change to excitement when he sees the clipboard.

When Jack talks, I often get little insights into his understanding; he understands that the pipe-cleaner can be bent but doesn’t understand concepts of weight enough to know that the pipe-cleaner isn’t strong enough to hold the CD upright.

He understands the concept of symmetry when making his Lego forklift but doesn’t understand the concept of balance; when you build a long arm on the forklift it will cause the backend to tip, therefore you need to balance the weight by adding more blocks. All this comes out as he sketches.

I like having these sketches as reference. I can help Jack work through his problem by talking about what he sketched. I think this encourages him to adopt a more active approach to problems he might have; rather than sitting back while I offer suggestions or fix things for him.

By sketching his ideas, Jack is able to articulate questions he might have. We can then use those questions to investigate together, heading into deeper investigations. Jack offers suggestions, many of them don’t work like adding tape the pipe-cleaner to hold the CD upright, but then we talk about this again, refer to his drawings and try something else.

Drawing to make ideas visible - An Everyday Story Reggio activities - sketching ideas - An Everyday Story Sketching a design for a snail - An Everyday StoryIn these photos, Jack wanted to make a snail with beads on the OHP but couldn’t quite visualise the spiral shape.

“Would you like to draw your idea first and then build it on the OHP?”

Design work on an OHP - An Everyday StoryWith the clipboard and pen, he was able to draw his design. After 3 or 4 drafts, he was happy with his design and set about creating it on the OHP.

These types of activities can’t be planned, they happen moment-by-moment. It’s nice to have the clipboard and pen on hand for Jack to be able to work through his thinking, with just a little help from Mama.


17 Replies to “A Clipboard and a Pen: Inquiry through Art”

    1. Why thank you Lori 🙂

  1. This sounds great… I have a very frustrated learner. I think this is something that he could do as a way of translating a thought/idea into something tangible & do-able. Thank you the great suggestion.

    1. I think Jack might be similar. He has very definite ideas and when I don’t understand what he wants and offer a suggestion which isn’t what he planned, he becomes more frustrated. Drawing has really really helped him to express his ideas. I hope your little one enjoys it too.

  2. What a clever little soul 🙂

    i love the way you harness his ideas

  3. A great idea, such a manageable way to break an idea down.

  4. I really like this idea. One of my kids has learning difficulties…she uses her verbal skills to compensate a lot…but she also is very visual and I think this would work very well with her. Thank you!

  5. It’s funny how something so simple, as a pen and clipboard can sometimes make all the difference to a child. This is one drawing/writing prompt that I haven’t used before so I’ll be sure to remember it for my daughter. Thanks 🙂

  6. What a great mum you are for knowing that your child finds communication through drawing easier than speech. It’s so great that you can bring down he’s anxiety by introducing those ways to communicate and then work it through together. Such a lovely post to read!

    1. Thanks Penny 🙂
      Jack seems to have been blessed with an extra dose of sensitive and so we are always trying different ways to help him work through some of his anxieties. Luckily for us he loves to draw.

  7. I think that drawing can open up doors for children and you have really demonstrated this I think thanks Kate. I love that when your little one draws he talks. Gorgeous.

  8. This reminds me of Charlotte’s drawings today. She drew parts of the Earth while we were talking about her aunt and uncle in Kenya 🙂

  9. I love how you record all those amazingly brilliant moments of early childhood when children are given the opportunities. I’m sharing this post on my kiddo blog today! Love your writing!

    1. Thank you Jessica 🙂 Jack has found a lot of confidence through drawing. He’s really enjoying inventing at the moment and so we have lots of little sketches in his drawing books of different robots and machines. I love them 🙂

  10. Your interactions with Jack are so sweet and so powerful; you empower him with such tenderness. You inspire me profoundly as a homeschooling mother. Bless you.

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