The first graders are working on writing their own books about a specific animal they've researched. Sophie did quokkas last year, Angela is doing jellyfish, and Peter is doing baboons. Because I am so experienced in the Ways of First Grade, I know what's coming next. Dioramas! And so one night when the kids were playing with clay, I told them to start working on their animals to see what they could make.
Peter's first attempt was fine, but he got very frustrated and balled everything up and went to his room for a while. We had dinner, and after dinner, decided to try again, but this time we had a plan. I sketched out for him all the parts of the photo he was trying to copy - the head is like an oval, the body is like a pear, the arms are kind of like sausages, etc. Once everything was broken down in linear fashion and he understood that it was okay to sketch it out first, he had a much better time.
The real turning point came when he was making the eyes. He had black clay (okay, Crayola Model Magic, we absolutely love that stuff) and was making little balls for the baboon's eyes. I got out some tiny beads and said, "Hey Peter, you should use two of these for eyes." He said he was doing it all himself and he didn't want any beads. So I took a tiny white bead, stuck it into a small black ball of clay, and held it up in front of the baboon's face, and said again, "Hey Peter, you should use two of these for eyes." After he saw that he wanted them, :) grabbed the beads and with minimal help from me, got them into place. After he made indentations for the baboon's nostrils and mouth, it suddenly was filled with so much personality that Peter was laughing out loud looking at it. Now this baboon and baby have a walking (!) baboon with a baby on his back to accompany it, and he plans to make more.
The fact that Peter went in one afternoon from artistic despair and frustration, to crowing at his handiwork, fills my heart with so much joy.