As we head into the new school year it is important to think about our expectations. Not only do we have expectations of the art they will make but we expect students to follow our class procedures.
To begin with class procedures, an art teacher needs to realize that what works for one teacher might not work for them and that is okay. There are several areas of procedures that a new teacher should plan out for the beginning of the year. With that being said, I still reflect each year on what was successful and what needs to change. I also think about what I was able to sustain throughout the school year and where I became too relaxed with procedures. Every year, I spend the first day of art talking to each class about procedures. I found that as the day went on I was finished earlier and earlier. I don’t know if I talked faster or I just started cutting stuff out because I was forgetting things. I created a Prezi last year to help me keep track of everything I wanted to say and it helped with keeping the students’ attention. Here is the link to my presentation: First Day Prezi
Entering your classroom – I have my elementary students enter, sit in their assigned seat and be focused to the lesson and instructions for the day. I start right away as I know I will only have their attention for so long. When I taught middle and high school students, students entering the room early in the passing time were able to get supplies and their artwork but when the bell rang, everyone needed to be seat and ready to participate in the lesson.
Student seats – Assigned seats definitely helps with learning students names. For elementary, I have eight tables paired together. I have assigned the tables a color by placing a colored supply tray on each table (plastic silverware trays from a dollar store spray painted). In placing the colors, I matched them up as complimentary colors. Red and Green tables are together, Purple and Yellow tables are together, etc. I even use black and white. There are many ways to label tables such as by artist or shapes. For seating arrangements, I make it simple for myself, the first four students listed on the roster sit at the first table (red), the second four students sit at the next table (green) and so forth. I do change some students’ seats as there might be a boy surrounded by girls or vice versa. Younger students seem to have a problem with it but older students usually don’t mind. I do change seats for students that are not working well at that table (off task or bothering others).
Teaching your lesson – In your lesson plan you will have a plan on how you will execute each lesson: demonstration, whiteboard, or technology presentation. In my district we have a requirement that we elicit 100 percent participation. It is essential to start the year being very strict about when you are speaking-the students do not. If you do not require this at the beginning then it will be very frustrating and will only get worse throughout the year. The old saying, Don’t Smile Until Christmas, doesn’t REALLY mean you can’t smile but there is wisdom in keeping a strong commitment to your high expectations on how students should conduct themselves in your room.
Getting and keeping their attention – For the little ones, I do use the ‘Mona-Lisa’ response. I will say, ‘Mona’ and the students will respond with ‘Lisa’. I found it last year on Pinterest and it works every time. Each of our classrooms uses some type of Whole Brain response and my students think it is pretty cool that I use an art one for them. Students have their lips closed, hand still and eyes are on me while I am talking. If I see that my younger students are getting squirmy while I am talking I find that when I change to an English, Southern, or ‘Pirate’ accent they love it and want to hear more. I get to keep teaching and they are listening- works for me!
Getting artwork – I have students get their own artwork from the drying rack or storage area for artwork expect for kindergarten to third grade. In grades 4th through 12th they are mature enough to handle this aspect if they are doing it in some groups. Instructing the whole class in general to go their work will create an unsafe pileup at the drying rack or cabinet. I have done this! I see disaster ahead so I say, ‘STOP, my fault, everyone sit back down so we can try this again’. There is nothing wrong with stopping and redirecting when you see something is not working. What I find that works it having small groups at a time get their artwork, supplies or even be dismissed. This can be done by table, gender, what color they are wearing, the list goes on and you can have fun with it.
Getting supplies – I only have pencils and erasers on the table. I find that if I have items such as scissors and glue out as well, they become items to play with while I am teaching. As supplies are needed, students will get them and put them in the trays for the class. I have jobs for each seat at each table. This is the area that I do relax on and I shouldn’t because the elementary students like having an important ‘job’.
Clean up and exiting – In addition to entering, students need a safe and controlled procedure to exiting your classroom. The end of class procedure should allow time for cleanup. It is hard at first to be tied to the clock but you must allow enough time for the students to have the room ready to go for the next. Then students can sit in seats and wait to be dismissed by table. This will ensure that you are able to see the room and ensure artwork, supplies and materials are properly put away and ready for the next class. You don’t have time between classes cleaning tables and tools, putting away artwork, or organizing materials. I am a stickler about ‘If you get it out-You put it away’ and ‘You can be as messy as you need to be- But...you will need to clean it up before you are dismissed’. Don’t short change yourself on cleanup time. Students can be amazing artists but they are still capable of taking responsibility for the supplies and tools in the art room at every grade level, kindergarten through high school, and it will make your job easier as you have enough other things to get accomplished.
Have a plan, try it out, make adjustments and enjoy a little less stress throughout the year by having solid procedures for your classroom.
-Connie Ferguson, M.ED, NBCT