One of the things I miss most about being a curriculum coordinator is the direct impact I could have on ECE practice. If such a thing existed, my ECE rule book would firmly state, no coloring pages allowed.
My opinion of coloring pages is not about what coloring pages are, but rather what they are not. They are not flexible, and they dismiss a significant part of the creative process.
Imagine presenting this coloring page as a classroom activity after having studied birds for several weeks.
After a child has colored it, what does it tell you about what the child has learned about birds?
Hard to say? It is for me, especially when alerted to the fact that the teacher had instructed the students which colors to use, as well as where to place color.
4 Reasons Coloring Pages/Worksheets Don’t Cut it as an Educational Tool in ECE:
1. They Review the Content Out of Context
When coloring pages are used as a means of further exploring subject matter, they do so in a limited fashion.
If a coloring page about birds is intended to review that subject or what children have learned, it does so out of context. How could a conversation about hummingbirds be different if it was sparked by a drawing a child made while observing one, or while looking at a bird’s nest?
Artifacts and observations give children context. Content is more meaningful when it is seen in relation to its environment; that is, the real life connections in which the children have experienced it.
2. They Use the Drill, Practice, or Review by Worksheet Method, Which Does Not Deepen Understanding
Coloring pages do not give children opportunities to learn beyond the work or image presented. Here is an image of a bird. Potential questions that may arise are likely limited to the information suggested by the simplistic, two-dimensional outline.
3. They Disregard the Child’s Interest and Self-Motivation
Giving children worksheets or coloring sheets as a means to review can only give insight into a limited area of their knowledge.
It does not allow children an opportunity to review or further question what might interest them regarding the subject. If a child is motivated to learn more about what hummingbirds eat, coloring a picture of one eating from a flower does not even acknowledge the child’s interest and sets aside their motivation. Instead, children are offered, at very best, “busy work.”
4. They Do Not Accurately Assess Children’s Understanding of a Subject
Teachers need to frequently assess children’s knowledge, not only to document learning, but to know what types of learning opportunities to plan.
How can children show what they have learned about birds in flight, birds building nests, birds’ diets, or hatchlings in this image?
What Can Teachers Offer Instead of Coloring Pages?
Here are some of my thoughts on what teachers can offer instead . . .
- Drawing Tools and Blank Paper
Crayons, pens, markers, and a piece of paper offer children a chance to show what they know – to tell us the story they want to tell.
Curious as to what my daughter did actually learn about hummingbirds, I asked her if she’d like to draw one. Knowing she frequently chooses to illustrate her ideas, I offered a pen and paper and she drew the image below, narrating as she went along:
Okay, so this does not as closely resemble a hummingbird as the coloring page does, but it sure does tell me a lot more. Aside from seeing what she is capable of drawing, I learned that she does not know what they eat, despite having colored a picture of one drinking nectar from a flower.
My youngest daughter does not as easily communicate her ideas through drawings, but she did create this giraffe. From it, I learned that she understood that they have long necks, and two legs.
- Other Loose Parts
Some time and one meal later, Greysen invited her sister to play “hatching” with her. She brought an empty box into the house, and she and her sister took turns climbing inside, closing the box, and hatching out of it.
This made me wonder if there is a deeper interest in eggs, and so this is one idea from which I can plan future curriculum.
Coloring is fun and CAN BE a very creative process. I think that in an ECE classroom, however, that its limited value as a learning tool should be acknowledged, and that other more open-ended processes should be used as often as possible.