Art of Childhood and Adolescence: The Construction of Meaning

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Referencing the work of Trevarthen , he suggests that 'the basis for the expression of emotion and the representation of objects and events form within an interpersonal arena between caregiver and infant' It is within this interpersonal relationship that the child acquires 'skills in viewing, handling and visually tracking objects, plus the expressive and representational possibilities these might have For Vygotsky there is a close relationship between play and art and 'the entire process through which children develop cultural awareness'.


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Children do not differentiate between poetry and prose, narration and drama. Children draw pictures and tell a story at the same time; they act a role and create their lines as they go along. Children rarely spend a long time completing each creation, but produce something in an instant, focusing all their emotions on what they are doing at that moment in time.

Play is seen by Lindqvist to create meaning. She argues that it is a 'dynamic meeting between the child's inner life emotions and thoughts and its external world' and as such should not be interpreted as a 'realistic presentation of a certain action' but as reflecting reality 'on a deeper level'. Both play and art, in enabling the child to create an imaginary or fictitious situation, are seen to enable the child to move towards 'disembedded from action' thinking, towards abstractions from the here and now Lindqvist, Building upon the work of Wells and Bruner the term 'meaning making' is used extensively when considering the child as a learner from a sociocultural perspective.

Dyson sees a symbol, be it a word, picture or dance, existing because of a 'human intention to infuse some tangible form - a sound, a mark, a movement - with meaning and, thereby, to comment on or take action in the social world'. Symbol making is, for Dyson, 'the essence of being human' and drawing, as a symbolic system, is one of the ways humans liberate themselves 'from the here and now'.

by Matthews, John

Geertz argues that people who share a culture share similar ways of infusing meaning into sounds language , movement dance , and lines drawings , among other media. Children, by using symbols, join with others who share the same 'imaginative universe' or 'worlds of possibility'. Dyson illuminates the way drawing is helped by the critical role of talk and gesture to become 'a mediator, a way of giving a graphic voice to an intention' Dyson, She draws attention to Vygotsky's description of drawing as a kind of 'graphic speech' Dyson, If speech is seen to be internalised as thought Vygotsky, can we assume that 'graphic speech' has its own internal visual narrative?

Gallas xv takes the view that children's personal narratives, formed in an attempt to order and explain the world from all aspects of their experience, 'are often part of the silent language that embodies thinking'. She takes 'an expanded view' of children's narratives, not confining them to the spoken or written word, but including the stories they tell from early childhood 'in dramatic play, in their drawings and paintings, in movement and spontaneous song. Children do not naturally limit the forms that their expressions take. Because adult communication relies so heavily on spoken and written language, however, schools necessarily reflect that orientation and channel children's narratives into a very narrow realm of expressions, in effect limiting rather than broadening the child's expressive capabilities.

Because of years spent with adults less flexible in thinking and communication she feels that most children 'lose their natural gifts for narrative expression. There is a lack of recognition by most adults of the power of drawing in serving a narrative function for children by externalising their experiences, thoughts and feelings through visual images.

Malchiodi gives drawing a dual role as a narrative form, enabling children to express their individual stories through a developmentally appropriate form of communication and providing a focus for talking about their drawings. Given the emphasis on reading and writing within the statutory curriculum, the innovative work of Kress on young children's meaning making has importantly drawn attention to the need for a broader view of literacy, which includes both the reading and making of visual signs. He argues that children are bombarded with a variety of stimuli both static pictures, signs, posters and moving T.

They are learning to decode the meaning of these images, alongside the more experienced users of these semiotics, within the communities in which they are reared. Kress's thesis is that 'children act multi-modally, both in the things they use, the objects they make, and in the engagement of their bodies; there is no separation of body and mind' ibid. He draws on detailed observations of his own young children engaged in multi-model representations using:. He argues that:. Above all there will need to be particular emphasis on developing their awareness about the dynamic interaction between the various modes, and their awareness that all modes are constantly changing in their interaction with other modes; and through the sign maker's use.

Pahl uses Kress's thesis to study children's meaning making in nursery education and notes that the objects children made in the nursery settings often have a 'fluid quality'. Children create layers of narrative as they represent and re-represent versions of stories in their play. A shopping basket made from a cereal packet and strips of card for role-play in the nursery might be transformed into a carrycot for a doll when the model was taken home.

She argued that children had more opportunities to utilise fluidity in their meaning making at home where objects could be freely transformed from one function to another without the watchful gaze of an adult. She sees these 'lines of enquiry' offering scope for children to explore the gap between 'me' and 'not me' using the models they make as 'transactional objects'.

The models children carry from nursery to home offer them opportunities to explore the inner workings of their minds through the outer material representations of their thinking shaped in particular ways by the environments in which they try to record their understanding of the world. Drawing is seen by Kress and Pahl to be one of the many languages which children use to 'talk' about their world in informal settings, both to themselves and to others.

The Art of Childhood and Adolescence: The Construction of Meaning

Through drawing children can re-present action, emotion, ideas or experiences and tell complex stories Malchiodi, , Matthews, , Egan has drawn attention to the story form as a cultural universal which 'reflects a basic and powerful form in which we make sense of the world and experience. Exploring the young child's use of drawing from a socio-cultural perspective allows the impact upon the young child's drawing behaviours of the views and beliefs of older and more significant others across both home and pre-school settings to be highlighted.

It also emphasises how the young child, operating at profound levels both cognitively and emotionally, uses narrative across modes of representation which include drawing. This paper draws on data collected as part of a three year, longitudinal research project 'Young Children Drawing at Home, Pre-school and School: the influence of the socio-cultural context'. Evidence was collected for one month, at the beginning of the school year to compile case studies of seven children's use of drawing across home, pre-school and school settings. It was a longitudinal study that took place over a three-year period.

Two key research instruments were used for data collection:.

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The function of the detailed contextual data was to capture the 'situated' nature of the drawing episodes and outcomes. The evidence was collected from September until November during a period of continuing change in the UK for all involved in both pre- and primary schooling. Government strategies introduced during this period included, for example, statutory baseline assessment, the Literacy Hour and the daily numeracy lesson.

The following detailed exemplar, drawn from the study, concentrates upon the experiences of one child and shows how he begins to use drawings as a narrative form to 'talk' to himself and to others and by doing so constructs new meanings. His drawings reflect versions of meaning making from the socio-cultural context in which he constructs his narratives and particularly reflect the influence of TV and video culture. Yet the child demonstrates a unique drawing style and an exploration through line of intensely personal responses to experiences.

In doing so he participates in the making of his culture Kress, and shows himself to be an able and powerful storyteller. At just turned three Luke was the youngest child in the sample. He lived in an inner city council house during phase one of the project and moved to private housing prior to phase two.

He had one younger brother. Luke attended a Family Centre three days a week. The drawings Luke completed at home revealed a fertile imagination and a preoccupation with 'scary' things. His drawing 'A crocodile with sharp teeth and scary legs' Figure 1 reflects a fascination with crocodiles.

TRACEY - narrative - Ring and Anning

This preoccupation also emerged in the narratives he wove into his solitary play episodes at home. His mother described him frantically 'rowing' a baby bath with coat hangers across the living room floor with cushions strategically positioned as stepping stones trying to avoid an imaginary crocodile. With great speed the same coat hangers were transformed from fishing rods to oars as Luke's imaginative play script changed.


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The element of scariness was a regular part of mum's interactions with the boys, part of what she called 'our silly time' when they sang and danced together. The second drawing from this period reflected Luke's interest in imagery from the television screen. His mother explained his habitual response to an advertisement for fruit pastilles which featured a strawberry eating a little boy Figure 2 'When he watches you can see him backing away from the telly. Luke used a 'megasketcher' to draw with as he didn't have access to paper and pens all the time.

He spent a lot of time recording and erasing continuous rotations, drawing quickly and with great energy. Paper, pens and scissors were reserved for when his younger brother was asleep and were used at the kitchen table. Luke was fascinated by scissors and systematically cut paper into strips, turned each strip at a right angle and cut it into a smaller strip until he was left with tiny pieces of paper.

Sometimes he made a mark on the paper as a prop for his cutting action. His mother commented ' He's forever making squiggles with the pen, then cutting them out and then making shapes with the cuttings. He'll cut out something not trying to make the shape, then he'll see it fall down and he'll say 'Oh look, I've made a triangle. Luke's mother drew with or for him and described how when she tried to draw the teletubbies for him he insisted on the detail being a correct representation: 'I did La La and he said 'La La's head doesn't go like that.

Drawing to Learn

During both phase one and phase two of the project there were strong messages given by staff at the Family Centre, to both Luke and his mother, about the importance of drawing people. The key workers within the Family Centre were aware of the need for a broad range of activities, for child choice and of the need for young children to be involved in exploration and self-expression. Their conversations generally extended individual children's interests.

However the messages given by 'Desirable Outcomes for Children's Learning on Entering Compulsory Education' SCAA, , gave further emphasis to a tendency within the Family Centre for key workers to channel children towards emergent and adult recognisable mark making. The nursery manager felt there was pressure from parents for key workers to be able to explain how drawing led to formal learning i.

Art of Childhood and Adolescence: The Construction of Meaning

The practice within the setting of including drawing within the term 'mark making' allowed drawing a valid place within the curriculum, but seemed to be devaluing drawing as an activity in its own right. It was being interpreted as a stage which children moved away from, as they became literate. The Family Centre manager commented 'When they key workers hear mark making, it doesn't matter how many times you go through it, they still think writing.

That's there at the back of the mind all the time. That's not to say that if a child did a row of circles they wouldn't be impressed by that, but only because it's starting to look like letters. One of the ways in which the Family Centre gave messages about the purpose of drawing was by its inclusion within the child's developmental record, as part of a progression from horizontal and vertical marks through figure drawing and onto early writing.

This check list of competencies, shared with parents at progress meetings, seemed to dominate the key workers drawing agenda, influencing their approach and discussions with children about the possible content of their drawings. Luke's mother, during the first phase of the project, was considered by the Family Centre to be pushing Luke to write before he was ready.

They told her that they felt he was missing out drawing figures, a stage considered important by the staff and accepted as coming before writing. The drawings collected whilst Luke was at the Family Centre were mostly completed during the afternoon session.

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The routine at the Family Centre was for the morning to be spent in 'free flow', with free choice of activities and rooms being allocated to a particular type of activity e. For the afternoon sessions the children were allocated to a base under the supervision of their key worker. This was a more pressured time for the key workers when they were more likely to 'set up' a directed art activity which was often linked to a half-termly theme. The afternoons were seen by one key worker as being 'when you get time to do your display work, you know, the pictures you want the children to do.

Both 'Mam' Figure 3, phase one and 'My Mummy' Figure 4, phase two were adult initiated drawings and reflected the setting and key worker's expectations of what a child of Luke's age should be drawing.

iitraangn.in/2535-tracker-another-smartphone.php Luke's key worker commented 'We haven't the time to give them one-to-one experience and then perhaps there's something in the profile - is able to draw a face - and you think I haven't seen him do that, so you sit with him and say It moves onto circular movements and dots and then they will start drawing pictures and saying, 'that is mummy'.

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