Clean-Up Procedures in the Art Room


It’s 5 minutes before the end of art class and you know what comes next: clean-up time. That little phrase always puts me in panic mode. Why? Because I don’t have a system. By the end of my class, the area by my sink usually looks something like the photo above. I’ve always been honest about this failing of mine. I like to create not clean! But lucky for you, I have good art teacher friends who do this clean-up thing really well. Here is a collection of sites to visit that will give you better tips than me!

Tips from Fellow Art Teachers

Karen at Mrs. Hansen’s Art Room has a great post on art room clean-up procedures.

Jessica at The Art of Education is a clean-up queen. I would love to see this gal in action. I think she might be everything I’m not: organized, structured and very clean! Thanks, Jessica for a great article on art teacher timesavers!

Jennifer over at Got Art has some great tips for art room clean up.

Okay, so even though I didn’t create this list, my Deep Space Sparkle’s Facebook page has readers chiming in to give their best tips for easy classroom clean-up.

Tips for Art Room Clean-up

Teach Kids Art refers to paper scraps on the floor as tickets. Read her post Many Hands Make Light Work.

Organizing your Art Room

If you want to go a step further and try to minimize clean-up problems, it’s a good idea to have a place for everything so that everything can go back to its place. The Incredible Art Department has a great post on organizing your art room.

Ms. Novaks at Organized Chaos has clean-up and organizing tips. Super woman!

Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room is gorgeous. I have a feeling that the kids who enter this room know exactly what to do when art time is over.

So now it’s your turn….what is your absolute best clean up tip for the art room?

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  • Sarah F

    First, I teach the students how to put everything away the first month of school or so. Then, I play Greg Percy’s Clean Up song when there is about 5 minutes left. They must be totally cleaned up by the time it’s done. It works great! I also have my spots numbered at the tables so if we are doing something new that they don’t know how to clean up I can call, “#1’s bring me the _____”, #2’s put this here” etc. Or if it is not going well, I say, #3’s are in charge of scraps on the floor, etc, to give them direction.

  • Amy Miller

    I assign jobs at the beginning of each class- glue, water, paint, brushes, drying rack, whatever. I have three groups identified by color (red, blue, yellow). I choose one person from each group to be in charge of that item for their color group for that day, both passing out and collecting. I write the jobs on the board and the student’s names under them. I play “Waka Waka” as my clean-up song. They love that song and know when I start playing that song that it’s clean up time and the student’s start doing their job and the others clean up their personal space first and then look around the classroom for cleaning up community space. I’ve also trained certain students in each class on how to wash out a paintbrush properly, and if needed, they do that job.

  • Jessica - The ART of Education

    Thanks, Patty for the props for my organization! 🙂 As always, I love learning and sharing with everyone. You have some great links here, thanks for getting the conversation going. I am always amazed at the end of each class when somehow the room is miraculously clean, just to be messed up all over again! 🙂 Ahh..the beauty of an art teacher.

  • Ms. Novak

    Thanks for the link Patty! I always try and keep things as easy as possible when it comes to cleaning up – there is a fine line with having too many specific jobs to keep track of and letting it be a free for all. You have posted some great sites with some wonderful ideas!

  • Jen Matott

    Thanks for the shout out! I am finding more ways to save time and clean up but sometimes the class is so focused and things are moving along so well that I get wrapped up and we are racing around cleaning up while the teacher is standing there waiting… not a good feeling! I think it’s a never ending battle! I did find a clean up song that is 4min. 30 secs long and it does the job! The kids move faster and the room is cleaner! I’ll post another article on it! THanks!

  • Janis

    You know what’s really funny I had a parent one Parent’s night tell me the art room was too clean! I never forgot that comment and it was many years ago. I still say “a clean art room is a happy art room”. I’ve never posted my clean up procedures, maybe over the summer I should work on that:)

  • adrianamedinah@hotmail.com

    How u do w palettes w tempera ???? If each class I have 25 children in elementary school ?

    • Patty Palmer

      Sorry Adriana. I’m not sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase the question?

  • Angela

    Where are the links for the clean-up ideas and what are the names of the songs that some of you have used? Thanks!

  • Julie

    This year I find myself with an average of 35 student in each 5th grade art class. We have just begun painting with acrylics. I am a week into the project and many years into teaching and feeling the effect of the stress this saturday. Next year the classes will be smaller-Thank God! I assign jobs at the beginning of each new grading period. During painting, there is a job called scrub sink for 3 students to clean buckets, palettes, and brushes. There is a table cleaning crew. The biggest problem is the mobility of the students during clean up and keeping the noise low enough to call out directions. Any ideas beside a bullhorn ?!

    • Patty Palmer

      Clean-up is pretty much my worst classroom management skill. But I’m okay with it. I embrace this flaw by making a few jokes every now and then and my students really seem to respond to me not always being in control. I tell them what I hope will happen then I pretty much let ’em at it. Some kids do nothing but there are always a helpful few who get the job done. We’ve turned it into a “let’s get this done together approach”.
      The thing to remember is that 11 year-olds aren’t meant to be super quiet during clean-up. Its fun, after all. It’s a chance to interact with another classmate. My advice is to really get to know your students, have some fun and then loosen up.
      Having said this, there are many, many art teachers who have amazing clean-up routines. I’m just not one of them. It sounds as though you are doing an amazing job so keep the interaction going, tell the kids up front what you want them to do (model it if possible) and then allow them to do it. Good luck. Let me know how it works out!

  • shelly

    I can help answer the question about the painting palettes. I used to wash all of them at the end of the day- until I came up with a different solution. I use wax paper (I get a box from the kitchen prep people- or I cut a roll of wax paper into smaller square pieces) The kids use those on top of their palettes (foam squares)to paint on. I have trained them to fold in half and throw away at the end of the class- and then the palette is clean and ready for the next class- no washing needed!

  • Desdemona

    I assign “a captain” for each table, this rotates every 9 weeks. The captain is responsible for getting things for the table like a box of markers or a water bucket and then for putting things away, like dumping the water bucket and refilling it for the next group when it’s time to clean up. I have a 12×18 piece of colored cardstock next to the sink that is my buckets home so they aren’t placed randomly around the counter.

  • Mrs Hansen

    Ha! I found this post on Pinterest… and saw my old blog post about clean up is the first listed. Too funny! Love your blog and podcast!

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