Early Language and Literacies through Art (ELLA)
Carefully chosen art images contain the familiar and the ambiguous. Group discussions around art encourage curiosity and permit children to use and scaffold personal experiences about what they know to build new meaning, to build problem-solving skills needed to think critically, and to use language to describe their questions and discoveries. Using visual art to develop cognitive and socio-emotional skills in early education is a natural!
ELLA uses developmentally appropriate art learning methodologies, including the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) shown to improve critical thinking, language, and visual literacy through carefully facilitated discussions using art images (www.vtshome.org). Children have been observed to transfer art image discussion questioning and response skills across multiple curriculum areas including story dictation, story writing, science observations, art making and other inquiry based activities.
The Materials and Art making component also uses open-ended questions and reflection to promote child initiated discovery making. ELLA draws additional inspiration from developmentally appropriate play-based curriculum and the approaches used in Reggio Emilia-based curriculums.
Teachers reflecting on image discussions and art explorations have noticed shifts in their own practices that transfer across disciplines and domains; promoting beneficial responses from the children.
ELLA Meets Standards and assessment objectives used in early childhood classrooms: The program is designed to model behaviors needed to nurture critical thinking skills required to meet the Common Core State Standards, the Objectives for Development and Learning in Creative Curriculum, and general school readiness behaviors.