HighSchool Art Room: instruction and providing choice to students

Organizing my Art Room for a 'back to school' experience in January

Happy 2018 everyone! After the holiday rush, our focus returns to beginning the new year fresh.  This may mean reflecting back on the little things about your classroom routines that are great or simply don’t work.  For me, I am starting in a new elementary art classroom this January and so, I am having 'back to school' in January. I wanted to share my preparations and little organization techniques to set me up for a great school year...er, second half!  

First I went into the room and took inventory. Having a supply list will help me plan out my projects for the semester and know what I might need to modify.  In the past, I worked in two rooms, one of them was shared with other art teacher. It's exciting to know it's all mine!

I decided to set up table caddies with the clothes pin system as I’d seen on Cassie Stephens' blog.   Link here.  She also credits Kaitlyn Edington, @artwithmrs.e, so I'm going to as well!  Shout out to Mrs. E!

I have never used this kind of behavior management system, but this new school I am entering encourages each teacher to have a behavior reward system, so this seemed like a good one to me. I like that it teaches daily responsibility and links behavior to free choice options in the art room as well as clean up duties.  

Like Cassie, I created labels for each of my free choice/early finisher bins, deciding on how many clips would be needed to use each item.  While table clean up jobs are assigned by color, if a table has two clips or less left on their caddy they are not allowed to partake in their clean up job. They must sit quietly while others get to move around the room. Now I did actually have a couple of students question this! Their thinking was that cleaning up would be a better punishment, but I’m not presenting clean up jobs as a punishment but, as a pleasant task and a opportunity for movement. Thanks to my friend, @jlcavaliere (IG), by the way for sharing her jobs poster and video with me! 

Another note about the Free Choice supplies: because this school has a very limited budget, I wanted to provide a lot of non-consumable early finisher options.  I will mention that these are items I own personally and have willingly supplied.  I have paper based options as well, but wanted to provide even more alternatives to the paper if possible.  In today’s world of STEAM education trends, many of these building tool options fit the bill perfectly.

Non-Consumable Free Choice Options

  • mega blocks

  • zoob builderz

  • lacing cards

  • pattern blocks with cards

  • ring builders

  • modeling clay with foam mats

  • wood blocks

  • clothespins and popsicle sticks bin

I have also elected to set up a “carpet” area in this classroom, but instead of a carpet, I used black foam mat tiles, because again, it was something I already had. I know it’s not super cute! I do have some fun future ideas on how to upcycle it. One problem I’m still working on with this is now not to have it slide around on the tile floor. Right now I have some pieces of rubber shelf liner underneath it (akin to a rug mat) and I may just duct tape the corner pieces to the floor. (Custodians, cover your ears!).  

One of my best group management tricks is to use colored masking tape or even washi tape on the floor.  For example, tape lines on my black mat show everyone where to sit and there’s a little less arguing when we gather at the mat/carpet.  

This is my carpet/meeting mat where I can share books with students, demo simple techniques and discuss artworks

Tape lines on the floor also show students where to stand when we line up. A red line marks where the first person should stop.  I usually also put a tape line down on the floor for the sink area as well,

 including a red line.  I’m still working on some spacing issues in this classroom, so that’s on hold for now. I have even put some red tape at a point by my desk as a reminder that it is not public space.

Back to those table clips, they are also tracked on the table folders. I made a simple grid in google docs by inserting a “drawing”.  It might not be the cutest, but it works! I’m having my students work towards two hundred points for a reward day. I’m thinking I’ll have students engage in the “reward” for half the class period.  Rewards, again, cannot be materials heavy.  

Ideas for “reward day”

  • modeling clay battles.  

  • play doh and tools for the younger kids (I can make it home made for almost nothing)

  • pictionary jr.

  • torn scrap paper- paper mache bowls (okay, this might take a whole class period!)

  • coffee filter art (younger grades)

  • minute to win it games (with a STEAM edge to them)

  • art related video

  • art hub for kids day

  • collaborative painting project

So I am off to a very organized start anyway!  I’ve made it through my introduction week in which I presented this whole mother system through a Google slides presentation. I actually started the presentation with just some simple photos of myself and my life. A few photos of artwork I’d done, a collage page of “things I like”, which definitely helped the kids open up to me a bit before I launched into the RULES.  What a heavy word, right?  But by sticking with the introductory routine, I know I’m setting myself and my students up for the best success.  

We’re beginning our time together with simple name plates that will sit in front of each student while I get a serious grasp on all those new names. Yikes! And this upcoming week, we’ll be beginning new lessons, but also taking enough time to practice the free choice procedures I teased them all with this week.

I’ll be sure to share some pics of these completed name plates over on my instagram and facebook pages.  If you’re not starting fresh this January, you can file it all away for the start of school.  If you are relatively new to teaching art and are getting to the point in the year when the amount of artwork in your classroom is overwhelming you, head over to my previous post about ‘managing all that art’.  It’s a full time job in itself! Thanks for reading!




A short P.S.! We have had such cold weather here in the Nashville area that school has been out of session.  Incredible, but true.  Tennesseans are not built for the arctic blast, haha. So my back to school experience has been delayed even further.  But it seems this Monday, we'll finally be on our way. Hooray! I can't wait to get back into it with my students.  This break has actually been too much of a good thing.