Sunday, December 6, 2009

Perfect Timing: Managing your Art Class

I've been asked many times how to finish art projects with a roomful of little artists when each one works at their own pace. Well, it's not easy, but at the same time, it's not impossible. Here are a few things to think about:

Some children will always finish ahead of others. It may be because they like to rush things, are on-task kids or perhaps just plain bored and want to move on. Whatever the reason, I'm prepared.
I have a station set up in one corner of the art room for "free choice" art time. Meaning, they can grab a piece of paper, a few markers and draw whatever they like. At times, some kids can't wait to get to the "free choice" station and this leaves me wondering if the featured art project was engaging enough. Who knows? Maybe it's time to dream up more creative projects.
For the on-task students who use their time effectively (meaning: don't talk alot!), the free choice time is their version of downtime. They can write a letter to their friend, invent the latest quiz for lunchtime entertainment or simply practice drawing something they like.
Kinders usually repeat the very same lesson over and over again. If the art project was learning to draw a pig, they will use their free-choice time to draw a pig. Very cute.
Here's a tip: Free choice work must be done at their original seat. This means that if their place is messy with let's say, paint, they need to clean it up before starting free choice time.

The Benefits of Portfolios
At the beginning of the year, I make an art portfolio for each student. Of course, they can do it themselves. Basically, the portfolio is just a piece of large paper folded in half. I put their name, teacher's name and grade level on the upper right corner. After each class, I put the art work in their portfolio. When a student has a few minutes at the end of the class, they can get their portfolio and start any unfinished work.
I shouldn't make it sounds this simple. You have to plan. Early in the school year, I did a series of post about which projects to start the school year off with. (You can find the series here.) I always suggest starting with a line drawing. Line drawings will never be completed in one class time. They also only require a black pen. Do you see where I'm going with this? Completing line drawings are the perfect project to work on if there is extra time at the end of a class.Directed Line Drawings
I love directed line drawings. They have many benefits: develop listening skills, enrich vocabulary, teach shapes and relationships, and on and on. Students love them as well because they get to learn how to draw something that well, looks like something. But of course, they can be a tab bit contrived. But everything in moderation, right?
But as far as keeping timing under control, directed line drawings can't be beat. If you teach the lesson well, meaning provide easy to understand steps and samples, the kids will be enraptured. This type of lesson keeps everyone on the same page. They're moving at the same pace...some kids wait a bit for others to catch up, but basically the class is flowing.
It might help you to teach a few directed line drawings to get the rhythm of the class and to see how much time children need.
Encouraging Words
Sometimes all anyone needs is a few kind words. Children are no exception. Often times, the kids who lag behind are just not confident or happy with their work. I really try hard to make every child feel proud. I'm truly impressed by their willingness, abilities and personal creative stamp and I make every effort to convey my feelings to them. I don't believe in the mantra of never giving compliments or being overly careful of my words. I honestly love everything that the kids create (and who wouldn't) and really enjoy celebrating their art with them.
Try very hard to impart a sense of fun with all of your projects. Children will notice your reaction when they paint two heads instead of one, or add way too much glitter when they were told only a sprinkle.

Keep it light. Keep it fun.


Katie @ Loves of Life said...

I do the same time with the free-choice art table but I call it the "Got Time? Table"

I hate when they try to rush over there to get 'free drawing paper' as if its a prize...I remind them its there all-year-long and their proejct is more important.

Also, I appreciated your last comment about the two heads instead of one and the glitter--I have to be careful b/c its SO Hard to monitor my reactions and facial experessions and I'm totally working on it! ;0 thanks for the reminder!

Unknown said...

I get so frustrated when my children rush to finish a wonderful project to work on free drawing or a colouring sheet. Is it my hang up? said...

I was actually a bit confused, but intrigued by your comment on "two heads ... glitter."

I never know what to say to those kids who PURPOSELY don't follow directions. I don't mean taking an artistic leap, but for example, covering their picture with glue instead of gluing on an object! :) Thoughts?

Patty Palmer said...

I have a few kids who, at times, will sabotage their art work. Usually, these kids have underlying conditions that I don't know about. Since I'm not credentialed, the home room teacher attends art class with her students and she usually helps this child.
As for other kids who just don't listen, well, that's another thing and another post!

April said...


I love your site. I've been following it since last spring and I have used sooo many of your projects in my room. I've been teaching art in a public school system for 6 years now, and it is wonderful to see what others are doing. I started my own blog...although I don't think I will be as prolific a poster as you are ( I have a toddler :) Anyway it is called the lime apron( I have NO idea what I am doing, but I have managed to show a couple projects and even referenced you in one. Learning a little at a time. Thanks for all the great ideas and have a happy holiday!

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