Getting Ready: General information
Working with clay on a board helps define the child's workspace and makes clean-up easy. When a child works on a defined surface, the edges of this surface give the child boundaries. A define work surface helps focus attention and limit distractions.
- A wooden board has the capacity to absorb excess water, can be cleaned with a wet sponge or paper towel, and is made from natural material.
- Masonite boards / boards covered with a canvas cloth: Staple or tack the canvas right to the boards or table so it doesn't slip around while the children are working. If you choose to use canvas or masonite, there is no need to clean with water. Simply have the students scrap off any clay left on the work surface with a popsicle stick. Once the clay has dried, the access bits can be dusted off into the trash.
- Using clay on a plastic mat seems contradictory to the essence of clay and also causes clay to either slip around and/or stick to it.
|Example: canvas covered clay board|
WATER: LESS IS MORE
- If the children are young, they should use a defined amount of water through the wet paper towel method or the wet paper towel pad method. For the wet paper towel method, give each child a wet paper towel and teach how to squeeze out the water onto the hands. The hands can then add water to the clay. To make a paper towel pad, wet a folded wad of paper towels and place in a dish. The children can then pat the wet pad with their hands to add water to the clay.
- If the children are older and more mature, you can teach them how to dip their fingers into a shallow dish of water to remoisten the clay. All methods focus on having the hands wetting the clay and offering a defined amount of water.
- Use bucket that has a close fitting lid and line the bucket with a plastic kitchen garbage bag. This liner is essential and will help to keep the clay moist.
- After working with the clay and before returning it to the bucket, add water to the clay. One way to do this is to have the children make a clay ball from their remaining clay on their boards and poke a hole with their thumb into the clay ball. Add water into the hole and close it by pinching it together. The dry ball will “drink” the water overnight and will be soft and supple by morning.
- Observe the next day if there is any water left in the clay balls and adjust accordingly. Was there excess water in the ball? Was the ball soft enough? How much water is the right amount?
- Cover floor with plastic (table cloth) and tape it down
- Place block of clay in the middle. Cover with a fabric until ready to introduce whole group.
- Ask probing questions:
- What do you think is under the sheet? Why do you think that?”
- What would you use this for?”
- How does it look? How do you think it would feel?”
- Group of 4 (can do the whole class in 1 week)
- Have kids remove shoes and socks and push up their sleeves
- Have kids investigate anyway they want (hands, feet, etc.)
- Pay extra attention to their vocabulary and descriptive words about the clay (make short notes of the conversation that you can later go back and watch on your video)
- Aid in this conversation (only if needed)
- Encourage them to describe what it feels like, “it’s cold, wet, sticky, squishy, soft, smooth, mucky…….”
- "What happened when...?”
- Clean Up: use baby wipes
- Take the clay out of the bag; place it on a clay board or other hard surface.
- Use a wire cutter slice through the clay block and cut off the needed amount (each cut slice is called a slab)
- You can create balls of clay from the cut slabs by tearing the slab in half and forming it into a ball.
- One half of a slab is plenty for a child to begin to work with. The larger the amount, the more the child will want to pound it. If you give a child a small ball that fits in his/her hand a different type of interaction will occur with the clay. The child might roll the ball, model it in the hand or squeeze it between the hands.
- Each child is given a ball of clay that fits comfortably in his/her hand. Encourage them to describe what it feels like, “it’s cold, wet, sticky, squishy, soft, smooth, mucky…….”What can we do with clay? What happens when we pinch, poke, pull, squeeze, twist, bend, roll, tear or punch the clay?
- Encourage the children to describe what happens when they try each of the above activities. What does the shape they have made remind them of? Have they ever seen anything like it before? Could they give it a name? Can they change the shape? How?
- Ask the children to close their eyes and try the activities. Encourage them to talk about what they have done, to describe what they have made.
- Try tearing pieces from the clay (subtractive method) and putting them back (additive method) on a different part of the ball of clay. Talk about the shapes they have made. By doing the above activities the children are exploring the possibilities of clay as a medium for imaginative expression; they are learning how clay behaves and how they can use it to make their imaginings take shape and form.
- When children have had several sessions exploring clay through touch, they can begin to make things from the clay. For younger children it is better to pull shapes from the clay rather than joining on bits as they are not yet adept at joining and may be disappointed if bits fall off when the clay dries.
- Other materials can be introduced, lollipop sticks and matchsticks as extra construction materials, found objects to create texture. The children can work from their imagination, characters from stories, poems, songs, T.V. They can work from their own experiences, family members, friends, pets.