When it comes to Back to School, a little panic sets in because of the unknown. We are unsure if any changes will happen in the school, unsure of our schedule, unsure if there will be supplies budget cuts (why do they do this!?), unsure if the staff has changed significantly, unsure who the kids are… These are all unknowns. These are, for the most part, out of your control. We cannot worry about things we can’t control. We are instead, going to place out focus on things we CAN control. If we focus our attention here and get things we can control organized and prepped, it will make our back to school, as well as the year, a lot more stress-free. Isn’t that the goal anyway?
Here are my Top 10 Art Teacher Tips for Back to School Success:
Get Focused! The best thing you can do would be to have a lot of your beginning of the year activities and units prepped and ready to go before the first day of school. There is enough stress with back to school in general and you will need to spend a lot of time creating meaningful connections with your new students, so don’t add on the fact that you didn’t spend anytime planning. Plan ahead, have success in the first two months.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Have your year long plan for each grade or grade group done. Print out each month on the top of a paper with the grade. Below, write or type what units or art projects you will do in each of these months. If you really want to be organized, you should color code your months. Next, print off your curriculum, then highlight the curriculum that you are covering according to the month. Example: August = Red. Underline curriculum content you’re covering in the month of August red. If you don’t have a year long plan done, you will be unorganized and unable to prep units in advanced. You will constantly be wondering what art projects you should do next.
Know your Classroom Routines and Procedures before you start the year. Write down your rules, routines, and procedures on paper. You can’t teach them if you don’t know yourself. As well, imagine a kid does something “wrong” but you never stated it was a wrong thing to do in the first place. They’d be really confused! Or if you got upset with how they washed paintbrushes but you never taught them how to do it… Not fair. Know them. Teach them well. You should probably model the important ones!
Save yourself time. Use the same mediums and materials in all or most of your classes. If you are exploring oil pastels… Explore with all your classes! They can all still do different art projects, but at least have them do the same mediums and materials to save yourself prep and set up time! That way you can have them always available and you wont have to switch from pastel, to paint, to clay!
Use caddies at tables. This is a life saver. I just pre-prep caddies with materials in the morning or the day before, and then when the class is ready, each table goes and grabs a caddy (one leader at each table). You can put tons in caddies. I love this option. There are lots of caddies to choose from now a days. When I first started teaching, I had no budget and was on a cart. I used colored microwave lids upside down with little containers in them to share to the kids. I still use these microwave lids because they’ve lasted all these years! LOVE DOLLAR TREE FINDS SOMETIMES.
Teach your students about Growth Mindset in your Art Classroom. This is important if you don’t want your kids to sit there without trying, or giving up easily. Growth Mindset teaches us that we are all learners, we will get better if we try, and that mistakes help us learn. If you want to learn more about Growth Mindset for your classroom, check out my blog post.
Teach your art students mindfulness! Mindfulness in art is helpful as it asks your students to clear their minds and be present in the moment, without worrying about the past or what will happen in the future. Being present and aware of your thoughts and emotions is always helpful in art making, as well, mindfulness is also a form of meditation. Check out my Youtube video where I teach you how to create mindful starts in your art classroom! This is my favorite classroom management technique.
Create a classroom mascot! I don’t care what age your kids are, but they love mascots. I’ll be honest, I have a lot of rainbow beanie boos in my room because I teach elementary… And… I LOVE BEANIE BOOS. I can’t help myself, they’re so cute. But you should find a mascot that works for you! You can use them when you do sharing… Pass them around for the person who is speaking. You can put them in your room and they can have quote coming out of their mouths with random things or reminders. They can have fun names. At Christmas they can act like Elves that do fun things each day. It really is just about classroom spirit and community. Kids like stuffies, even if they pretend they don’t. I see a lot of 11 and 12 year olds hugging my beanie boos of all genders. They love them. And so do I.
Make sure you take time for yourself. Take time to to nothing. To listen to music. To go on walks. To not think about your classroom. Take time to make healthy dinners and lunches so you are keeping your body healthy when you work at a very germy environment. Take time to meditate and do deep breathing to relax your mind and body. Take time to exercise (this is my note to self) because you are not able to be YOU if you don’t look after YOU. Stress can cause a lot of damage to your health if you don’t keep yourself in check. It can cause mental health issues, self-esteem issues, it can even cause weight gain. Your mental health and physical health is all connected and if you’re not treating yourself right things just won’t be right, and then you can’t be there for your kids.
No matter the age, read art picture books to your kids. These can teach concepts to your kids quickly! They are great hooks for the start of a class and you are making art cross-curricular. You are inspiring them through books and you are allowing them to create connections with art to themselves and other parts of their world. If there is anything that you take away from this list, it is to read to your students art pictures books.
Try out these tips and see if it makes a difference in your art classroom for back to school! If you have any other ideas or would like to see a specific future blog post, be sure to leave a comment in the comments section at the bottom of the post.