Getting ready for Back to School in your art classroom can sometimes be stressful. There is a lot to think about and remember since you’ve been away for 2 months. As well, the kids that left you knew your routines and now you have to re-teach them to the new set of kids. Or, you might be in your first years of teaching and are still learning how to effectively teach classroom routines in your art classroom. Or in later years and looking for some fresh ideas to allow your back to school run smoothly. I’m going to share with you how to efficiently set up your Back to School routines and systems to allow you to effectively teach rules and routines and create classroom community.
Before the Students Arrive:
Before the school year starts, you will need to make sure that you have prepped and gotten your classroom ready. This includes a few things:
- Set up and arrange your tables and classroom furniture. As you set up your tables you need to be aware of how students will move through the classroom, especially at the start and end of class when traffic will be the highest. Think about leaving lots of room around the sink areas and counter tops, as well as lots of room to access storage for art and sketchbooks. Students will rush to these areas first and crowds will naturally form so make sure they’re not being stuck against tables. If you have a kiln in your room, make sure all ceramics equipment are far from the rest of the room and are very tidy (clay dust can cause lung problems and the kiln needs space around it when its fired. Less mess, less dust, easier to maintain your room). Click for a template to help you set up your classroom: Design Your Classroom, Ms Artastic
- Shop for supplies. Assess what you have and what you don’t have. If you have a limited budget and a huge list of needs, I suggest implementing recycled materials into your classroom. Click here if you need a FREE shopping list template! A lot of my classroom supplies are ones that are recycled or are donated from peoples craft bins (it accumulates fast into a full supply room). I use everything and teach my students how to use recycled materials in their art. I have a bins for: loose bits, cardboard, magazines, newspaper, toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, fabric (left over bits or scraps from sewing departments), colored paper scraps (classes that craft have lots of scraps that can be used in art class in mosaics/art portfolios/sketchbooking/etc), “fancy paper” (wrapping paper scraps), plastic (containers/bubble wrap/etc)… anything. Kids will bring it in from home and add it to my bins. They’re always full and they’re always being used in art. Honestly, in the real art world (which I’m a part of as a professional artist) artists don’t make a living off art and don’t generally purchase lots of stuff and tend to use found materials in their works if they can. Most art is made with recycled materials. It’s also WAY better for our planet and teaches the students social responsibility.
- Plan your first day activities. Keep it simple! On your first day you should introduce who you are, your classroom, and have kids explore and experiment with a pre-selected array of art mediums and materials. You should also get them to learn who their classmates are. Back to School Community Builders and Icebreakers in an Art Classroom are a must.
- Draw something on your whiteboard. If you have never done this…OMG. Get on it. Kids LOVE when they walk in a room and there is an epic drawing on the whiteboard. I mean, you don’t have to go to town; even drawing a giant cartoon pencil that is making a Bob Ross painting that says “Welcome To Art Class” is going to blow their minds. That being said, I once went to an art room where a teacher did chalk pastel murals on her chalk boards and I almost died. It was insane (also, she never erased them, it was part of her decor). If you draw something on your board, you have immediately hooked the kids.
- Plan the first week. Have it all prepped and ready to go 80% should be community building activities and art exploration. They should be getting to know each other, practicing your routines, and exploring art mediums. By the end of the week, or second week (depending on how often you see them), you can start a “Back to School” themed art project.
- Want to set goals for yourself as an Art Teacher for the Year? Click for a free printable—> My Art Teaching Goals, Plan Your Year for Success, Ms Artastic
First Day of Art Class:
- Think about exactly what you want to accomplish and teach students on the first day. Naturally, we all panic and think we need to force rules and procedures for our rooms onto the students. However, all teachers are doing this and by the time they’re in your room, they won’t be listening (would you be listening if you heard the same rules 5 times over? Not I. I would be day dreaming). Instead, hook them on art and build classroom community. That being said, by all means introduce a couple main rules for your room, but save the main speech or class discussion for day 2 or 3. On the first day, hook them with a fun exploration of art mediums and a game or activity where they will get to know each other and your art classroom. Introduce yourself! Tell them about all the things you love and do so they know your not just a robot speaking to them in the front of the room. If you love Star Wars, tell them that. If you have a pet, tell them about your pet and show a picture. This makes you a person and someone that the kids can relate to. As well, send home a letter to the parents introducing them to you and your room and request some donations of recycled materials or unused/left over craft supplies.
First Week of Art Class:
- After you have all the first day stress out of the way, you have day 2 and 3. These days are when you are really going to implement your Back to School Community Builders and Ice Breakers. You need to focus on building classroom community this week, as well as training the students on your classroom routines and making sure they understand the expectations (and reinforcing them when they stray away from meeting the expectations). Day 3 and 4 you should start having all names memorized and can start trending toward starting a Back to School themed art project.
- Start an art project by the end of the first week or in the beginning of the second week (depending on your schedule). Only start your project when the students are SHOWING you that they are good listeners and are following your expectations in the art classroom. I will not start anything unless students show me they can do beginning and end of art class routines by themselves when I say “Go” and that they know how to “Stop and Listen” when I prompt them to.
- Make sure they know supplies they need to get. Send home any notices or “Get to know the teacher” newsletters.
- Review all routines and expectations with the kids before they go into the first weekend. They will be overwhelmed from the first week and will have forgotten a lot of what was said on the first couple days. As well, some will begin to get comfortable and will start testing boundaries and you will need to reinforce that you mean what you say (of course, never call a student out in front of the entire class as that will embarrass them and ruin your relationship. Instead, talk with them privately in a calm way and remind them that you believe in them, care about them, and know they can meet the expectation.)
- Read art books! Reading art books can teach kids a lot of great concepts for the art classroom such as growth mindset.
- Plan your goals for creating first week connections with this FREE printable: First Week Connections, Ms Artastic
Classroom Rules and Expectations: Keep it simple!
Chances are, you students already have listened to a lot of expectations and procedures in other classrooms, or are in later grades and know a lot of them. Have kids share classroom rules they know. Have them model any suggestions they can model (ie: how they walk in the classroom, what it looks like. What lining up at the door looks like) (Oh thank you for the idea. Do you think you can show me what that looks like?). This empowers the kids. Unless they’re in K and 1, they SHOULD know a lot of the routines. Don’t share all, just have them start thinking about it. This should take around 15 minutes or so. After classroom discussion, have them experiment with mediums and materials with music for another 15 minutes. Discuss how art classroom ends and go over YOUR “End of Art Class” ideas.
Procedures and Routines You Should Teach Your Students: Always Model!
- Start of the Day (how do you want your students to get ready and start each class
- Waiting for Class (how should they wait outside your room?)
- Working Time (what does work time look like and sound like?
- Cleaning Paint brushes (SHOW them how to do this and have kids do this! Maybe even a small prize for the first time they clean and have the bristles up when put into the jar)
- Putting away mediums and materials (label your art room! It makes it so much better)
- Where to hand in completed work (I use an “Inbox”)
- Where to hand in notices that were signed by parents (I have a hand in notice bin)
- Where to get work they missed when they were away (I have a bin for this)
- How should they ask for help in your room?
- How should they clean up? Does everyone have a job or should you set a timer and EVERYONE cleans the room perfectly (if done in 5 minutes perfectly the kids get a point. At 10 points the class gets a prize (play time/cute erasers/a tiny candy/etc)
- How should they line up?
Creating Classroom Community:
The first week is when you can build your classroom community. It is important to do meaningful activities where students can really talk to each other, and you, to build connections and relationships. You need to talk with as many students as you can during this time to memorize their names, learn about their interests, and observe their drawing skills and willingness to learn/draw/experiment.
- Try some fun drama games, sit in a circle and share their names and something about themselves.
- You can have them make collaborative art at their tables on poster-sized paper and allow them to talk to allow them to get to know each other. You can sit in at tables as they talk and listen/ask questions to get to know your students and learn names
- You can have them create “About Me” artist portraits and share their pictures and interests to small groups. Again, float, listen, sit, and ask questions. Memorize names!
- You can also have them create mini masterpieces where they explore new mediums and materials and share their works to a small group. Let these be fun and experimental to encourage students to try new things and love making mistakes. This is a good lesson to pair with Growth Mindset in your art classroom.
Try out some of my suggestions and see if it helps you focus your Back to School first weeks to create an efficient, learning, community driven classroom.
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