To colour-in or not to colour-in … that is the question

Image Can I just say to start off with that I have a real love/hate relationship with colouring-in?

I love colouring-in when I am listening to someone talking because I find colouring-in relaxing and it helps me to focus on what is being said. I love choosing colours, blending colours together and making an artwork come into being with some things coming forward at me and others disappearing into shadow because of my choice of colour. I had better stop here … I could wax lyrical forever about the joys of colouring an artwork of my own or that of someone else.

I hate it when colouring-in becomes a chore; when I see children being forced to colour-in blank expanses of white paper with horrible blunt pencils until their hands feel as if they are about to drop off. I can understand a Kindergarten teacher being tempted to give this kind of work to their students while they give their attention to another child or group of children, but surely there are more beneficial and enjoyable things that could be employing their time? They could be looking at books, developing fine-motor skills with enjoyable craft and art activities or even believe it or not, practising literacy or numeracy skills.

During the week, Mar. 16, @corisel tweeted, “Channel 9 trying to cover a story on overcrowding of primary school curriculum: Journo said children need more time in primary to colour”. This report led to disbelief and outrage on the part of a few educators as they tweeted back. We certainly do have an overcrowded curriculum but we would not use any extra time if we were given it for ‘busy work’, which colouring-in can descend into. Sure, colouring-in is great for developing fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, pencil grip and learning about some basic elements of Art – but so are other activities that can be linked to teaching literacy and numeracy concepts. 

If colouring-in is done at all in school it can be done with artistic objectives in mind; to help students explore the characteristics and qualities of using different colours. With this, they need not use the humble school pencil. They can also try other mediums like pastels, paints, felt pens, charcoal and graphite pencils of various hardness.

My mother introduced me to great colouring-in. She looked at some school work that I was handing-in in Year 3 and decided to sit down with me and show me how to blend colours and make things look three dimensional. I did the same with my eldest daughter who hated book work. I showed her what my mother had shown me. She has gone on to be an artist who has an amazing sense of colour and how to use it. 

Today I took a sheet of material with drawings on it and some fabric pens to my parent group. They were so excited when they walked in and sat down to colour and chat. It helped them to relax and enjoy some quality time together. 

So, to colour-in or not to colour-in? Like anything, if you are going to use colouring-in for students during school time, then make it a learning experience, an enjoyable one, and integrate it with other learning because yes, the curriculum is very overcrowded.

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