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Artroom Management

Perfect Timing: Managing your Art Class

Perfect Timing: Managing your Art Class

By on Oct 8, 2014 | 14 comments

It’s the question everyone wonders about. How do you teach an art lesson so every child finishes at the same time? Can it be done? Not really, but you can create a classroom so that everyone is working. Children process information at different rates and children work at different speeds. This is true for adults and so it must be true for children. Intellectually we know this yet we still yearn for art room nirvana. This is the time of year that I experiment with my lesson delivery and timing plus learn to adjust to each class’s needs. It’s also the time when I’m the least effective with managing a timeline. And this is okay. I need to get to know who the kids are, if as a collective group they can work independently without chaos or if they need a bit more structure. I can have multiple classes within each grade level and I will treat the timing differently with each class. Here are the things I think about and assess: Are the majority of the kids in the class able to follow multi-step instruction? This may take a lesson or two to determine. Yes: I do a demo at the beginning of the class that lasts between 7-10 minutes. This usually covers all the steps needed for the first part of a 2-session project or all the steps for a 1-session project. No: Divide the demo into two sections, one at the beginning of the class and one at the middle. Or if the group really lacks in focus, I slow it way down and just do one slightly longer but easier demo. Going slower is often far less stressful for both the kids and the teacher. Put on some calming music and just let art unfold. Are there many distractions during class? This can include late arrivals from inclusion student groups, pull-outs, or teacher/aid switches. Yes: There is not much you can do with a school schedule that is designed to help each child reach his/her potential. For many students art isn’t the most important subject. Don’t take offense to this. There are some very real and hard challenges for kids in school and getting to art class on time might not be on...

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Prepping for Your First Art Class with Kinders (yikes!)

Prepping for Your First Art Class with Kinders (yikes!)

By on Aug 20, 2014 | 17 comments

I received a question from a reader yesterday asking for advice. She teaches upper elementary and middle school but now will welcome Kinders into art class for an hour each week. Not feeling very comfortable with potential squirminess, she wondered how she might schedule or organize the class so that everything goes smoothly. First of all, this reader must know how much I love my Kinder classes. Everything about 5 year-olds is really endearing to me. This is partly because my own babies are in high school and college and partly because these little munchkins are someone else’s babies. It’s a circle of life type of thing: caring, creative teachers taught my children and now I get to do the same. So now that we set the stage, let’s talk about Kinders. Characteristics of Kinders Have a huge range of fine-motor skills from being able to hold a drawing tool to really not at all Art is a natural form of expression for Kinders but learning techniques is counter-intuitive Girls will love most everything you do and will be prone to offering many hugs Negative self-talk is almost nonexistent at this age, but will solicit approval at an annoying rate. Boys are squirmy and will break out in karate kicks at random moments Love routines and have more stamina than you think Once you have a couple of years of teaching Kinders under your belt, you will realize that more than any other grade level, Kinders are the most consistent in behavior. Sure, you can have a high-level Kinder class ( I did two years ago) but mostly the characteristics are the same. Let’s take a look at each characteristic above and show how you can manage and embrace these traits in class. And then last we will look at different ways to schedule the class. Fine-motor skills Both boys and girls will have a huge range of fine-motor skills. Last year I had the sweetest, most adorable kid who on the first day of art class, looked at my bowl of scissors and told me that we shouldn’t be using such dangerous tools in art class. It was pretty clear his mom didn’t allow scissors near her boy (totally fine) so the scissors were a foreign object....

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End of the year clean-up strategies

End of the year clean-up strategies

By on May 29, 2014 | 15 comments

For many of us, the end of the school year is fast approaching. For me, it ended this week and if your art room is anything like mine, it can be overwhelming to think about cleaning up. There are some things I need to do, like get boxes and supplies off the tables and clean up the sink area–things that the office manager assigns in a checklist–but the boxes of dried up clay, the mismatched markers and the boxes of paper scraps just make me want to run away and hide. In fact, I tend to be in the same boat as DSS Facebook reader Leah Keller, when asked what her advice is for the end-of-the-year-clean-up, “Drive away and don’t look back until August!” Actually, there is a lot of truth to her statement. Sometimes, doing the basics is enough for now and when you come back in August–rested and motivated and with brand new supplies–you can really dig in and organize with ruthless abandon. Here’s what I at the end of the school year: Organizing artwork and returning it to the students is priority number one. Sometimes, I have the students organize the last pieces of artwork into their portfolios, sometimes I do it myself between classes and sometimes the classroom teacher steps in and helps while I teach the class (love my co-teachers!). CERAMIC UNIT CLEAN-UP Because my ceramic unit falls at the end of the year, I have some things that require attention. Wiping the dry clay bits off my mutli-slab tile cutter, because if I don’t, the clay will rust the wire. Combine underglaze colors together into small condiment cups. Write color name on side of tub. Often the underglaze will dry out, but when you use them again in the fall,  just reconstitute by adding water. Separate clay tools and place in individual trays or containers Put plastic bags of extra clay into large buckets and add water to the bags. In the Fall, I’ll have some students wedge the extra clay into cubes. MARKERS/OIL PASTELS/CHALK PASTELS This is one category of clean-up that I leave until Fall. Students help sort markers but I leave pastels and chalk alone. It’s just too messy and overwhelming. I’m far more excited to organize this stuff when school starts...

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Smart Classroom Management Interview

Smart Classroom Management Interview

By on Jan 9, 2014 | 21 comments

CLASSROOM  MANAGEMENT TIPS & STRATEGIES  We all long for the ultimate art room experience: a classroom full of respectful students and hitting the sweet spot between artistic expression and a controlled environment. Can this happen on a regular basis? If you asked me on Monday, I would have said absolutely, but after a few high-energy classes yesterday that left me a bit drained, I’m here to say that classroom management is an on-going pursuit. But there is help. I’m a big fan of Michael Linsin and his website, Smart Classroom Management. His no-nonsense approach to classroom management is not only appealing to me, it really seems to works. What I love is his practical advice for interacting with children without the complicated rewards systems that people like me find hard to remember and keep track of. I emailed Michael and asked if he would answer a few questions that I’ve been wondering about. As an art specialist, I feel I have a unique set of classroom concerns. Here’s what we talked about….   Patty: Can you tell me a little about your background and your blog, Smart Classroom Management? Michael: My first inkling that I might want to become a teacher was in high school. I worked at a sports camp during summers and had just about the best time of my life. When I eventually became a teacher, I was able to put my finger on what I enjoyed so much about working with children. It was the relationships and my role in affecting their behavior. I became fascinated with classroom management and creating a learning environment that caused students to want to behave. I’ve spent much of my career both as a classroom teacher and a PE specialist testing and honing the classroom management skills I needed to take any group of students, no matter how unruly, and transform them into my dream class. I started the blog about five years ago to share the principles, strategies, and solutions I learned along the way. I now consider helping teachers create their own dream class to be my life’s work. Patty: Art teachers have an interesting job. They see many classes per day, often with little transition time and...

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Crying in the Art Room

Crying in the Art Room

By on Aug 15, 2013 | 20 comments

There is no worse experience for an art teacher than when a child cries during art class. We’ve all been the witness to crumpled paper, crayon throwing and plain old meltdowns. Our heart breaks for the little one and often we blame ourselves. This post examine the reasons why some kids have meltdowns and what you can do about it.   As I was poring over my inbox after vacation, this email from Ashley stood out…. Help! I am used to teaching middle and high school students and I am not familiar with teaching little ones. I read your post about managing an art room last night and went in today feeling better. I had one child start crying mid-way through class because he didn’t like any of his artwork. We had just read “Beautiful Oops” and I tried to convey that mistakes are OK and can become something nice in their work. He ended up crumpling his drawings and throwing them on the floor. I tried to get him to keep working through it but he was frustrated. He told me the Sharpie (marker) was too fat for his hands and he couldn’t use it. He is a third grader. Have you ever had a student frustrated and/or crying? I’m pretty sure that every art teacher reading this has experienced this scenario. I’ve had kids from almost every grade level break down occasionally. The most important thing for Ashley to consider is whether or not crying is a common occurrence in her classroom or if the episode was rare.   Here are a few things to consider: Although teaching art is fun, it’s not always easy. When we think of elementary school art, we conjure up happy images of children blissfully working with paint, pastels and paper. Pinterest, art ed blogs and other forms of media all contribute to the fantasy that if we introduce a fun subject, every child will be engaged. The truth is, idyllic classrooms can happen, but it’s not without years of practice. My mission for my art classes is to inspire creativity. That’s my main goal and whatever it takes to get kids to experiment, learn, take risks and relax into the process, I...

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Maintaining Perspective in the Art Room

Maintaining Perspective in the Art Room

By on Feb 10, 2013 | 12 comments

Its half way through my teaching cycle, which for me means that I’m on my second rotation for both my A and B groups. Creating, balancing and maintaining an art curriculum is crucial when I see each class only fifteen times per year. At times, I feel I’m a little too intense when selecting which art projects we will do. Careful planning helps ensure that each class will meet all (or almost all) of the state standards. I try to keep slots available so that if I have a sudden lesson inspiration (which happens often), I can add that to my schedule. I also try to be flexible when a class may require more or less from me…things like more free expression, less direction, etc. Each class is different, as is each student. A special art program for everyone… If I had my way, I would design an art curriculum for each child. I see their differences, skills, awareness and learning styles and yet, there isn’t much I can really do to provide the perfect art program for every child. I accept that. Yet, I strive to provide an interesting and dynamic art program that will at best engage children so they will walk away from elementary school with a love of art and at the very least, learn that they were pretty good at making painted paper. Standards, assessments and the other such stuff… I’ve become more aware of standards, objectives and behavioral expectations over the past year mostly because of the engagement from my DSS readers. I’m not required to teach to the standards, my curriculum gets seen only by me and I don’t have to grade art. Yet, my readers challenge me with great questions and because of this, my curiosity gets piqued frequently. I start to wonder if I should be incorporating more assessment or standards or better clean-up protocols because people are asking me. I begin to lose sleep because I’m not sure which standard that cute little pig lesson checked off. Engagement matters… But then I take a step back and remember why I teach; to engage children with art, to bring out the creative side in all my students and  to help...

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