Ok, as i have finally got ‘written permission’ from all the parents to use the images from the workshops, i can start the lengthy process of blogging the illustrations workshops for my Professional development practice! – so here goes………

I was enlisted to run 6 two hour sessions for 5 – 11 year olds at Community House in Kimnel Bay (which is run by Communities First, in North Wales), and these sessions would be part of the summer activities offered to young children in the local area. I have run workshops for Communities First in the past but these Personal Development workshops  for adults. This was to be my first time working with children.

As a i am a teacher already, and also have quite a lot of experience in teaching young adults with differing behavioral issues and attention spans i was aware from the outset that the sessions needed to be inspirational,inclusive in their approach and to include a wide variety of activities in order to  maintain their attention throughout the sessions. So i decided that each two hour session would include two main themes – one of character development where the emphasis would be on stimulating the imagination and using drawing skills and story telling skills, and the other section would be a very practical, creative and messy session where the children could move around the room, get messy, and feel less restricted. Of course the sessions would be broken up by a ‘juice and toilet break’ , this goes without saying!

The overall theme of the six sessions was ‘illustration, character and story making’ and i also wanted to include an underlying theme of Personal Development as this is the area i am interested in incorporating into my work with children as i feel it is something that is not being addressed as much as it could be in today’s society and i feel that the children would find a lot of benefit in it.

Each session had a title – the first session being :- “Who do you think i am?” – (The underlying theme of this session was about how not to judge people by what they look like.)

–       The aim of this initial session was to teach children how to draw faces and then how to change their facial expressions to represent a range of emotions. Children  drew characters faces, and wrote the emotion by the side that they thought they were showing. They enjoyed ‘making the expressions’ themselves and then drawing them onto paper. I was aware of the fact that i could have given them more time to complete these images but also knew that i needed to change the activity to maintain their attention and that they could possible complete them at home. I also knew that it was important that every session created something that the child could take home and show to their parents, and that it was important that they felt that they had achieved something that day, as the other ‘project’ they would be working on from session 2 would take a few weeks to complete – this is a long time for a child to wait for recognition and praise.

At the start of the session i showed the children a Power Point presentation i had created on ‘What is Art’ which showed the journey of art from the ‘realistic’ type of painting portraits through to the more abstract work of artists such as Picasso. I did this as i knew there would be children who felt that they weren’t any good at drawing and felt that their work wouldn’t be realistic enough, i wanted them to know that there are lots of different types of art, and that it isn’t all about creating something that is a ‘photo realistic’  , but it is all about how the images makes you feel. They were surprised to see that Picasso’s cubist style portraits sold for millions of pounds!

The children also made ‘identikit’ face charts, where they created and painted a face, and then colored in different parts of the face, showing different expressions, and then used these pieces to form as many different expressions as they could. The aim of this was to help children play at recreating expressions, which could help them with their drawing skills, but also that the chart could also be used by children as a way of letting their parents know how they were feeling that day, and so it could be a communication tool as well.

'Guess how i am feeling today' - identikits made on session one

I also read them a story i have written and illustrated called ‘Brenda the misunderstood Witch’, and projected it onto a screen so that the children could see the images as the story was being read, thus allowing them to feel more involved. As the story has a strong underlying theme that is connected with personal development (of which i don’t really want to say too much about at this stage as i am hoping to get it published at some point) i was really pleased to see that the children got really involved in the story and also totally understood what the story was trying to impart and the message within it. This was a really beneficial experience for me as it was the first time i have ever tested out my stories to a large group of children, and as they are my target market their opinions are the important ones! It was lovely to see them jumping up and pointing out little things they could see in the images, and also pointing out how the story could be improved! :0)

It took me ages to think of a way of gaining additional feedback from children that are so young, and at the same time not making it into a ‘school environment’ so i decided at the end of the session (after i had given them feedback in the form of the best loved form of stickers!!) to just put a chart up and let them either write their name under the ‘face’ that showed how they felt , or they could write it in words, this i thought would cater for the different ages and abilities of the children.

Leaving feedback at the end of the session!

All in all it was a great first session. I felt that i learned so much within 2 hours not only about the children, and their different needs, learning styles, and behavioural make-up but also about myself – as a person, and as a teacher. It was exhausting i have to say, but totally invaluable at the same time!

Second session post coming soon!!