In my Kindergarten, neat coloring means:
- controlled strokes (long or short as needed, but not with total abandon)
- a legitimate attempt to color all colorable areas (leaving stuff uncolored is okay if you have a reason for it) in a picture
- prioritizing completeness of one picture rather than finishing (say, if they're coloring a take home reader)
- using multiple colors (at least three)
Later in the year, we add experimenting with shade and coloring more lightly/more heavily.
To assist students in this, I try to provide the best coloring tool for the job. But I have spent some time working on finding a tool that is manageable and high-interest (if the tool is manageable, I will provide it more often; if it is high-interest, the kids spend more time with it).
For the edification of equally minutiae-minded people, here's what I've learned.
Pros: Available in a wide array of colors. Some students find thicker items easier to grasp. Students generally color more heavily. Very nice for crayon shaving/crayon melting projects.
Cons: Boring. Many students associate big crayons with "preschool babies" and similar and want thinner ones.
Use: Out and always available.
Pros: Available in a huge array of colors. Some students find thinner items easier to grasp and like using "big kid" supplies. Very nice for shade and tone studies. Children are more likely to use a tripod grasp when using these.
Cons: Requires training around "Why it is not a big deal when crayons break but we shouldn't break them on purpose". Kids get bored.
Use: Out and always available.
Pros: Color well on black. Smudging allows interesting color effects.
Cons: Messy. Finished works need to be sprayed with fixative.
Use: Restricted to certain art projects.
Pros: Thinner, therefore "big kid" supplies. These inspire heavy coloring since the more you color over something, the more glittery it gets. High novelty factor. Finished works have a nice shimmer. The glitter embeds itself nicely and doesn't get all over everything.
Cons: I haven't found these in assortments larger than 16 colors. These are expensive (~$2.50/box), so we don't have enough for the whole class to use at once. This can cause interpersonal drama. Not that easy to find unless I am willing to pay shipping (I just bought the last three boxes at Flax, for instance).
Use: I toss a few of these in every crayon tray and require that they stay where placed unless borrowed through a conversational exchange (no snatching) and returned.
Pros: Exciting for children. The marker stands inspire sharing, teach the art of "cap until it clicks" and reinforce rainbow color order.
Cons: Leak through paper. Hard to do color mixing.
Use: Restricted to large projects.
Pros: Exciting for children. Small tip enables detail work. Do not leak through paper as badly as thick markers.
Cons: Not the best tool when there is not ample time for coloring, since kids will use these for a long time. Hard to do color mixing (although nice for design work using darker colors on lighter colors). I don't have marker stands for thin markers and the click of the well-placed cap is not as audible, so there is loss to drying out.
Use: Generally available by request. (They have to ask but the answer is usually yes.) We keep fresh roll trays around for sharing these out.
Gel F(x) Markers
Pros: Nice on black paper. Interesting "fade in" effect that is fun to watch.
Cons: Run out very quickly. Color mixing is not really possible. I have only found these in thick sizes, so they don't lend themselves well to detail work. Expensive; I got a class pack from DonorsChoose but I wouldn't spend the $70 replacing it.
Use: Restricted to black-paper projects as a special treat.
Mr. Sketch Scented Stix
Pros: Between the scent and the tiny tips, kids will color with these in great detail. Inspire sharing. Appear to last for a very long time; caps go on securely without a lot of effort. The scents apparently last a long time (the kids will sniff their work for days afterward and claim they still smell the pens; I haven't tried this).
Cons: Leak through paper more than other thin markers. Require teaching "How to Share the Scent of a Marker" lessons before someone takes an inadvertent pen to the nostril. Not the best tool for projects with a short timeline - left to their own devices, some kids will spend 90 minutes with these. I personally loathe the smell of almost all of these. Expensive; I got a class pack from DonorsChoose but would not really want to spend $80 to get another one.
Pros: Excellent for reinforcing tripod grasp. Allow blending and shading. Available in a wide array of colors. Kids will use these with good enjoyment.
Cons: The great art of sharpening is seductive. In any colored pencil project, two to three children will want to spend all of their time sharpening until the points are extra sharp. It may also be necessary to see what will happen if the other end gets sharpened (answer: nothing. I have better things to get grumpy about). Pencil sharpeners are not first-day-of-school tools in my classroom and I find colored pencils do not sharpen well in an electric sharpener, so these require a lot of work for me.
Use: Go-to tool when true to life coloring is required or thin markers are not available/suitable. Otherwise they're available by request, but requests are pretty rare.