3 Ways to Encourage Student Choice in your Art Room

Walking the line between a lesson that allows students to assert choice and their own creative voice and managing supplies and expectations can sometimes seem a bit difficult to wrap your head around. But what if it doesn’t have to be? Students don’t need to determine every aspect of their artwork to reap the benefits of having some creative freedom, which include taking more pride and ownership in their artwork.

Here are 3 ways to encourage student choice in your art room: 

  1. Start small 

If you’re used to teaching lessons where students all come to the same outcome, that’s okay; it’s still a valid way to give your students a wonderful art education. But if you’re ready to branch out a little bit, start small. Allow students to make one choice at a time or even one choice per lesson to start out. Let them choose their paper color, which animal they’d like to draw out of several choices, or if they’d rather use crayons or markers for a certain lesson. You’ll be surprised how their individual creativity shines when they have a say in their artwork and how simple it is to allow for these choices. 

  1. Choose a framework, not a final outcome

While every art teacher’s philosophy is different, I’ve found that by offering a structure, or framework for the lesson is a great starting off point, then students can make decisions on how to execute the artwork within those constraints. Sometimes that might be a theme of a lesson, like a rainforest landscape, for example. Students have the constraints that they will draw a landscape, but they have the choice in what they include and how they include it. Perhaps some students will be drawn more to exploring the flora of the rainforest, while others are interested in the animals within the landscape. You can also offer choice in the support materials you offer, letting students decide whether they’d like to use a drawing guide or a source image to draw from observation. This allows them not only to have a choice, but also to gauge their own skills. 

  1. Embrace spontaneity

Have you ever had students who, no matter what directions you give, go off in their own direction anyway, adding extra details or their own touches to the lesson you had planned? What if instead of being focused on what the artwork “should” look like, you turned your focus to what it “could” look like? Yes, students need to learn the elements and principles of art and art techniques, but is it really the end of the world if after they complete their artwork, they add a silly face or extra element if that’s what lights them up and engages their interest? If you stifle those small moments of spontaneity, you might miss an opportunity or idea that will make the lesson even better than what you’d planned. 

If you’re looking for lessons and curriculums that offer both a framework for success and opportunities for student choice, join us in the Sparklers Club. Enrollment is opening in August and we’d love for you to see how we can help you plan your school year with less stress. Click here to join the waitlist.

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  • Emily Franz

    Where can I find these three projects featured in this article on 3 ways to encourage your student choice in the art room? I love the fish one and the one with the yarn bridge. Where are those projects located?

    • Patty

      Hi Emily!
      These are all projects in our Rainforest Biome Bundle inside our Sparklers Club membership.
      If you are a Sparkler, the bundle will be released July 1st, 2022.
      If you’re not a Sparkler, you can get our our early notification list for next enrollment (this August).

  • meredith

    Sign me up for the waitlist

    • Bethany

      Hi Meredith! Thanks so much for your interest in The Sparklers’ Club. You can join the waitlist here https://www.deepspacesparkle.com to get up the updates on enrollment which is coming up in August!

  • Linda

    Thank you! Love this philosophy!

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