What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

Very young children, no matter what their level of prior experience, are usually eager to make art. Direct their natural energy and enthusiasm with simple, structured activities that help them explore a wide array of materials and encourage self-expression. Though there will be variations in individual student development, most students will exhibit some of the following characteristics.

Pre-kindergartners At age two to four, students’ drawings consist mostly of scribbles. They begin at the earliest stage with random markings but slowly start to demonstrate more control with circular and repeated motions. By ages four and five, many will be able to tell a story about their scribbles, a sign of imaginative thinking and visualization. These students are hands-on, experiential learners who enjoy discovering their developing abilities. Behaviorally, pre-kindergartners are busy exploring language and may talk out of turn. Because a class environment is new to them, they may be easily distracted by others. Keep art projects simple and brief so that students stay engaged. Include projects for which students can use drawing tools and other materials, such as basic collage materials and found objects, to create meaningful pictures and designs.


In kindergarten, five- and six-year-olds begin combining circles and lines in ways that suggest human or animal forms. The three-finger grip develops, which assists them in both writing and drawing. Behaviorally, many kindergartners begin to demonstrate an understanding of rules and routines. They tend to be cooperative and seek teacher approval. Because they learn best through hands-on activities, art projects are a natural fit for them. They are often more excited by the process of art-making than by the final product.

First graders

During this grade, six- and seven-year-olds’ drawings often reveal what they find most important about their subjects. Also, the use of color can be inspired by emotions rather than logic. Behaviorally, first graders exhibit more complex language skills and can therefore be quite expressive verbally. Expressiveness also takes the form of physical enthusiasm, which can mean an increase in movement and a sense of competition. First graders learn well through discovery. Assign art projects that allow them to explore and create with a variety of materials.

Second graders

Seven- and eight-year-olds typically demonstrate increased awareness of the concept of space. Objects in their drawings show a relationship to other objects. Colors reflect those found in the real world, and shapes and objects are more easily recognizable. Increased fine motor skills help students feel more in control as they draw, paint, cut, glue, and work with clay. At this age, students move from liking to work in groups to working alone. They often appear more serious than students at earlier grades; reassurance and humor on your part can help maintain a positive learning environment.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Pre-K Students Can… Grade 2 Students Can…

paint using washable paint and varied tools

paint using tempera, watercolor, or wax-resistant techniques


identify primary, light, and dark colors

classify colors within color families (tints, tones, and shades, warm/cool, etc.)


identify a work of art

identify primary and secondary colors


notice the difference between smooth and rough textures

identify the formal elements in an artwork (lines, shapes, colors, etc.)


express feelings through artwork

critique works of art, expressing likes and dislikes