WOW designs

I have been working with many young children lately. My goal is create a project that pleases the children, the teacher, the school and me. With young children this means that the projects often start out highly structured. Even though I know that this is a good thing there is a part of me that just wants to let the children run wild with color. This, sigh, generally does not turn out to be a good thing.

Page Decoration by first graders

I struggle to find a place where I can let students loose with color and design, but still reign in their designs in a way that shows them a new and unexpected way of approaching their work.

For years I have been trying out different ways of introducing decoration. I feel like there’s been a good bit of success in working with letters of the alphabet. But I have found that it’s good to even simplify this approach. Whereas I used to demonstrate ways of using the letters Z,O,V,W,I,C,X, and S as decoration I recently decided to just try out using WOW and I….by the time I met with the third class of the day I was down to using just WOW.

Children love to watch an adult draw.I am always happy to stand at the board and draw for them. To demonstrate this technique I draw some W’s and O’s, emphasizing the decorative possibilities of these letter shapes, and then I draw WWWWWWWWW and say that sound….the insightful teachers know just how long to let the students imitate the sound before they ask their class to quiet down. But I like that they spend a long moment with the WWWWWWWWWWWWW and OOOOOOOOOOOooooOOOO’s because it seems that vibration they make gets deep inside of them, priming them for good work.

And, of course, the coolest thing is that, even with the structure that I impose…

… their designs turn out so differently from each other’s.


decorating the page, by a first grader

8 thoughts on “WOW designs

  1. Hello Paula. Decorative possibilities with wow……now that’s a formula that works. Wonder where the kids take that idea later….do they pick other words or letters to play with? Anyway……wondering how content of inside pages was conceived. OX C


    1. There are always a few students who ask to use other letters. I ask them to start with what I am showing them. then use the rest of their lives to experiment with other possilbilities. When I see students over multiple years they. with a remarkable consistency, tell me how often they’ve used the things that we’ve done together in class. A few days ago a woman told me that her son, who is a senior in high school, made a pop up birthday card for his dad, based on a structure he made with me in first grade.

      The content on the inside of the pages were completely taken care of by the classroom teachers. The picture in the windows went along with their content. I love it when I can collaborate with the the classroom teachers like this.


    1. Let me know how they do with this. For Pre-K I might try to confine their designs between two lines.
      BTW, when my daughter and I saw you outside your house a couple of days ago, she sighed and said “I love Becky.”
      Me too,


  2. I really love working with paper and seeing these works are inspirational to say the least. Thank you for all of these great posts. I’m definitely going to sign up for your RSS or at least bookmark your site.


    1. thanks for this note! It turns out that tomorrow I will be teaching this lesson again. Your comment got me looking at this post again (five years later!) and is reminding me of some good things to remember..


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