5 Rules to Simplify your First day of Art by Deep Space Sparkle

5 Art Rules to Simplify your First Day

5 Art Rules to Simplify your First Day

Ahhh…the first day of school.

No doubt you’ve already been into your art room putting new art supplies into rainbow colored bins, throwing out all the junk that you stuffed into drawers last June and dreaming about all the perfect students you’ll be teaching.

If you’re really ambitious you might create stations in your art room where kids can go to free draw, or to flip through art books or perhaps examine a color wheel at length. Images of children working on projects, cleaning up their work area (without being asked) floats through your head as you sip coffee while planning your art curriculum.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I admit, I’m a bit of a idealist but I truly believe a few solid strategies will help you realize your dreams of an organized, fun and balanced classroom.

For me, my first art class begins like this:

The classroom teacher peeks into the art room before she allows her students to enter. She checks to see where I want them to sit (on the floor, at special tables, etc) then once she knows, she asks the children to enter quietly.

Usually, if they are excited (which is surely the case) and are talking a mile a minute, I stand at the front of the room and smile. I stay smiling until the kids look at me as if there is something wrong. When they’re convinced that I’m weird, I welcome them.

I talk fairly low so that the kids are forced to stop chatting (I don’t want to be a yeller).

I tell them how excited I am that they are here (and this part is no exaggeration. I do love seeing them after a long summer) and I ask if there is anyone who doesn’t know who I am.

I meet the kids that are new and explain my “rules”.

Here are my 5 art rules:


Art Room Rules by Deep Space Sparkle

That’s it. Those are my 5 art rules.

After I tell them these important things, I move right into my first lesson.

No wasting time talking about supplies, clean-up duties, table responsibilities, what bugs me, where to sit, etc. I get on with the fun.

No child wants to sit through forty minutes of rules and procedures.

They want to do art.

Of course, I’m with them on this point and it’s because I have a very good reason. I have little time with my students. I only see them 15 times a year. Many art teachers see their students 32-36 times a year. So you could argue that you have the time to devote a whole class to the rule stuff.

You want your kids to come into art class excited, not worried about remembering the art teacher’s rules. Let’s face it, between the homeroom teacher, the science teacher, PE coach and the librarian (and we all know how many rules they have), the first few days of school for kids is basically rule week. And who can remember them all?

Rules & expectations can be explained and put into action as the month progresses.

I know from raising three kids that in order for anything to stick, behavior expectations need to be consistent.

I never allow students to talk when I’m talking. I’ll stop what I’m doing and not proceed until the kids figure it out. This includes parent helpers or even classroom aids. This doesn’t mean that the kids always follow this rule, but I stay consistent and hopefully it sinks in by the end of the month.

I share best practices on how to treat art supplies, how to clean-up, and when to chat with the children gradually….a little bit each class. It only requires 2-3 classes to get my expectations demonstrated.

Do you know what is the best behavior management tool of all?

Creating art.

Spring Daffodil Art Projects for Kids: How to Make painted paper

So plan an art lesson for your first day.

Shock the heck out of the students and teachers by doing a painted paper project on the very first day ( just make sure it’s not Picture Day!). Think of the bright side; you’ll have all that pretty paper to use up for the rest of the year.

 So temper your excitement about starting the year off fresh by holding back on all those fabulous rules. They can wait. Unleash them gradually and consistently. Enjoy your student’s energy and enthusiasm.

Need some help figuring out what to do after the first day?

This download shares:

  • What art supplies I love to use and what I don’t bother with
  • Tips on planning your curriculum
  • What supplies to use with each grade level
  • Handy art technique checklist

Download the free ART TEACHER’S TOOLKIT…

Click the yellow button to receive your Art Teacher’s Toolkit via email!

I can’t wait to hear how your first week goes. And I’d love to hear what YOUR 5 ART RULES are.

You can share them below…

Patty xo

PS Have you heard that a complete art curriculum based on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design is included in the Sparklers’ Club membership? Oh yeah. This curriculum is pretty epic–and that’s what it’s called EPIC– and it includes resources, posters and all the lessons you need for a full year. 

Find out more right HERE.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Annette Bernardi

    Great advice! Thank you.

    • Deb Locklear

      I got in trouble last year for letting my classes talk.So this year that’s one of my first rules unfortunately. Thanks

  • Kim

    I love your simple rules! I’m going to use them! Hope your year starts off great!!

  • Erin

    I love them all…. especially rule number 3!

  • Kathy

    I love painted paper! We make a big batch of it each year to use in collages and mosaics. Your rules are great and rule 3 is very positive!

  • Lauren

    I love this advice! It’s so funny because it’s exactly what I did last week when we started back. We dove right in! And, I started with paint just to see the shocked look on their faces. You’re so right, we have to make every moment count!

  • phyl

    I have one really important rule that the kids all know: NO WHINING! (or no complaining). After all, this is the ART room, where the sun always shines (true in my room as I have a sun on my window shade) and everyone is happy. If something goes wrong, laugh and say “oh well, it was only a sheet of paper” and then turn it into something unexpected.

    I do something fun the first class but leave the messy stuff for the 2nd art class. My students all bring their own art shirts to school and I give them a day to get them into their cubbies in their classrooms.

    But yes, I see my students a LOT more than you see yours, maybe 50-60 times over 40 weeks for grades 2-6, and 30 times for K & 1. Lucky me – it means we can create a LOT of stuff!

    Oh – I agree 100% with your rules, especially the talking one!!!!!

    • Patty

      Yes!!! NO whining! That’s a biggie for me. I find myself not responding to the whines. Just can’t deal!
      Do art shirts work well? I’ve been getting lots of questions regarding how to manage art shirts. I don’t use them at all.
      I’m jealous of how many times you get to see your students. Twice a week is a real rarity today.

  • Tobie

    I simplified my rules this year also. It has made the class run so much smoother. I am at a private school we started school 3 weeks ago (a very short summer for me!)

  • Cathy

    I love this post! I have been stressing and jittery about what I want to do the first day. This helps a lot…..although my first project will probably be something a little less involved than painted paper! I have my whole year planned, etc. but have still stressed about this first day….and being a first year teacher, first impressions on the first day make a big impact!

    I am similar in that I don’t see my students often but another problem for me is that I am an “art on a cart” teacher…..going from room to room. So that makes things more difficult in planning, etc.

    I have 4 kids and totally agree…..routine is important!


  • Amy

    Hi Patty,
    I just stopped by to let you know I love your lesson plans and started my first day with them. I loved your post about the first day, and could not agree more. I too like the floor to myself and talk low.And as for the rules, I felt like I was reading from my own list. I want to thank you for taking the time to share with all of us who rely on your lessons and your blog. I know my students are thankful.

    • Patty

      Thanks so much!

  • Kenneth

    I do agree that we need to keep rules and procedures to a minimum, especially for the first day of school. I did explain my rules and procedures the first day followed by a “mini” art lesson the second half of class. I like your tree painting lesson with the stippling technique. Thanks!