Art Teacher Tips

I came across a post at The Art of Education blog that listed her Top 10 timesaving tips in the classroom.  She asked others to blog about their favorite tips that make their art classroom more efficient.  I have a bunch of tips that I’ve used over the years.  Here are my 10 favorites:

1. Create a table system so that kids and access materials for each project easily and without you having to run around the room passing things out when you could be monitoring or doing something else!  I created bins for each table.  I assigned each table a color name and used contact paper (laminate the images and words and you will be good to go for cleaning purposes). For example:  the RED table has a photo of Henri Matisse’s painting called Harmony in Red.  Below is a photo of my bins that I bought. I used letter stencils and spray paint over the summer to label each one and in each is a pencil cup, plastic container for scissors, pencil sharpener, rulers, and glue sticks.  I add other materials as the project needs and can easily check each bin at the end of the class to see if everything is there or if it needs replacing!

Table bins

Inside the bin

Table labels

2.  I have read this tip on other art teacher’s blogs, but I have to reiterate how important it is to have kids do the bulk of the clean up! Set up a system that allows them to be responsible.  My rule is to clean up your table – work as a team.  I also have special classroom jobs that rotate.  Each student makes an index card with their name on it and class name.  They decorate them to be unique (as long as I can see their name clearly).  I keep these in a binder and on their class day, I randomly pick kid’s cards to display on my job chart.  They look to see what job they have and I don’t have to do a thing except monitor.  I do not do this with Kindergarteners yet.  They do not have the skills to read yet so I just give special jobs as kids finish.  “You are done? Okay, will you be my drying rack helper? ”  They are ecstatic and they generally are a big help! Of course, you need to have a list of helper titles ready!  Sink Monitor, Paper Passer, Scrap Monster, Water Cup Captain, Paintbrush Police, etc… Here’s a picture of my job chart:

Job Chart

3. I teach 7 grade levels that are all doing different projects at the same time.  That’s alot of preparation and organization!  So, I have these long cardboard boxes that I inherited from the previous teacher.  I labeled them by grade level and keep all the supplies needed in them ready to pass out!  I simply go to the counter where the boxes are and pull the correct grade level out and fill my bins or hand out supplies!  It’s kept me organized and it’s easy when there is a sub because everything is there!

grade level supplies

4.  I don’t grade (Thank the good Lord!) but I do have to keep track of 450 kids artwork, labeled and ready to go.  I guess I’m a bit OCD but I make up labels using an address label template.  Print on labels, peel and stick as they finish!  I have them typed by class with a few extras in case kids move in before I can add them to the list. I simply keep their labels in their class portfolio and we are good to go!  Easy to see who didn’t finish, who’s in what class (when I hang work up and take down), pass back to correct class. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to read a computer printed label then to try to decipher their handwriting!  Here is what it might look like:

Student’s Name

Grade Level

Class teacher’s name

School name- ART (I always put ART on them so that they know that this was made in artclass and not the regular class)

5.  Just say NO to all those extra projects.  You know the ones… poster contests, decorations, t-shirt designs for the spanish club, etc… Any of those things suck up my time and take away from my curriculum.  I am a true believer that if it doesn’t fit into what I’m teaching in the classroom, it’s not going to get done!  I put out my “teaching philosophy” for my staff when I came to the school. I knew that the other art teacher had taken on Mother’s Day gifts,  contests, decorations for the concerts, etc… I was NOT going there.  I made is clear (in a nice way) that I truly am passionate for what I teach and it’s important that I complete my curriculum.  I also added that I’d love to discuss how to do it yourself, where to buy the supplies, and idea brainstorming for classroom teachers.  I DO create holiday ornaments with Kinders but it fits my texture unit and it gets my clay project done early!  LOVE it.  BUt if it does not enhance my program, it’s not happening in my room. I’ve gotten good at saying NO nicely.  People generally get it.

6. Spend a bit more on good supplies and skimp on stuff that isn’t as important.  I spend good money on Akua inks so that I don’t have to deal with whiny kids who have ink that dried too fast before they can monoprint!  I also spend more on brushes so they last, glue bottles that are replaced every other year (they get really beat up and there is nothing worse then clogged or leaking bottles!), and markers that are not going to dry out after half the year!  There is something to be said about having good supplies that won’t give you a headache!  I don’t spend money on stuff that is not necessary like fixative spray (I use cheap hairspray or laminate the pastel work),  crayons, or white drawing paper.  I find that for most projects that stuff can be found pretty cheaply or donated.  I have crayons that are leftovers from classrooms and will probably NEVER run out!

7. Make a plan.  I have my year planned out in August.  I’m flexible though and can rearrange projects or dump one for another if need be, but I have a Scope and Sequence created so I can see what to prep for next.  Here is the post that details my system. It’s nice to see what I have coming up and be able to rearrange on the computer.  I also keep a lesson plan book that has big spaces for daily notes about where classes are in the project and what needs to be covered.  I have to make notes to myself or I forget!

8. Make powerpoints ahead of time and organize lessons with examples so that you are ready to pull something out.  I have a big poster keeper box that houses all my lessons with examples, handouts, bulletin board text, and posters of artwork that goes with the project.  I do this for many reasons, but mostly to keep me organized and ready to go.  I simply pull out the folder and I’m good to go!

9. Hand back work midyear and at the end.  I  hold onto work for 2 reasons… exhibits & assessment.  First, I pull work for various exhibits throughout the year and usually don’t know what I’m bringing until the week of.  If I handed back work regularly, I’d be stuck with only current work and miss an opportunity to feature awesome work from the previous months!  I also like to do an informal assessment with the kids so they see improvement over time.  They enjoy seeing what they did in the beginning of the year and where they are now.  I also create labels for the back of work that summarizes what we learned, skills focused on and artists that were introduced.  Parents LOVE knowing exactly what inspired the lesson and it allows for discussion at home about the process and vocabulary!  WIN!

10.  Use resources!  Don’t reinvent the wheel… the internet, library, and museums have great resources with lesson plans, examples, slideshows, examples, and books!  Use them!  I love Google!  I love my library for storybooks that go along with my lessons for K-2, and I love art teacher blogs!  I have used them so much to plan my lessons that I often wonder what we did without the internet???!!!  Art teachers are a sharing lot and will be happy to give you more information if you ask!  We love to share, just don’t ask to borrow our paint, best markers, or use up all of our glue!

I hope that my tips have helped you or at least entertained you.  I would love to hear what else you have to share!  Happy New Year!

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22 responses to “Art Teacher Tips

  1. Pingback: Art Teacher Tips Link Love « The ART of Education

  2. I love those poster boxes! I would need so many of them though! I wish they were more inexpensive. . . I have a compulsion to get everything on sale. How many did you have to buy to house all of your lessons???

  3. I have the same blue tubs. I need to stencil mine with the names of the colors too. Right now I just have a block of wood with holes for scissor colored the color of the tables. But I love your stenciled names! Thanks for ALL the tips!

  4. Pingback: Art Lady | A typical Sunday morning of exploration 2.0

  5. Hi! I just found your blog and had to tell you that you have given me the BEST idea to handle my 5 sections of kindergarten (30 minutes, back to back classes, no break)….those labels will save my life!

    Halleluah! Deciphering their names and the many repeat names (who is Chris? oh, there are 3 of them in one class!) that kind of thing…THANK YOU!!!

    Such a simple, but wonderful idea!

    Also, I have never sat down and pulled together a scope and sequence…I have a rough outline usually written down, but this just might help me keep sane…I’m always switching up ideas…

    I’ll put you on my blog roll as well…thanks again!
    Have a great rest of the summer!

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  8. Greetings from Australia.
    Nothing better than someone who is “true blue”-says what they mean. Practical and not preachy-a fabulous, helpful find!
    Cheers and thanks from Cathie (Melbourne).

  9. Great ideas, but saying yes to some of the contest, etc is being a team player. Its hard to say no when you get the note across the page, “the district wants participation in this” However you can learn to be selective and choose things that will help bring some joy and short lived fame to the students. The other teachers have curriculum, scope and sequesnce too, but they participate. I think we dont want to alienate our profession as being too good or stand offish.

  10. I love your “Scrap Monster” job! I can’t stand doing collages and it’s because of all the paper scraps. I might not dread collages so much now! Another way to keep up with work is to have the kids label their work with their name and their “teacher code”. That would be the first letter of the teacher’s last name and the grade level number. So if a first grade teacher’s name is Jones, the teacher code would be J-1. Works for me :D

  11. What a joy to find your blog! I taught science 20 yrs and switched to art, so your tips are invaluable to me. I’d like to share my Gr 6-8 Zentangle & ATC Unit, so contact me, if interested. I would really like to see a SAMPLE of the label that you put on the back of student projects.

  12. Thanks a bunch!!! Your tips are very helpful and you are very inspirational. I’m excited about my new level of Art Teaching and grateful for your input. May God Bless YOU and every class and student you teach.

  13. I love the ideas! I just started, & am still learning, wordpress! Would love you to share some of your ideas on my pages: theartteachers.wordpress.com.
    I started the page for an online class, but really see myself keeping it going.

  14. You said you buy a certain type of markers – What type of markers do you usually buy? I have been buying Crayola but they ran out VERY quickly.

  15. Thank you dearly for sharing your S&S!! Its my first year teaching elementary school and needless to say i am quite overwhelmed – so thank you! Very helpful ideas!

  16. Pingback: Clean up procedures in the art room

  17. Pingback: Link Love: Art Teacher Tips | The Art of Ed

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