Are you nervous about starting the school year? Or are you excited to get things going? Even though this is my lucky 13th year teaching, I still get anxious to go back. It’s a combo of nerves, excitement and anxiety about getting back into a different routine. I still have dreams that the class is out of control, I forget that I am scheduled to teach or I oversleep. Recently, I asked readers to share their top tips for starting the school year. Read on to get a wide variety of ideas, tips and plans for the beginning of the year.
** There was some confusion and I think people thought I would recommend to spend a whole first class period on seating charts and rules. No, I don’t think that would be a good idea. It is art class after all, and you want the students to be excited about making art. I always have the kids start some sort of art activity after a brief introduction of expectations and procedures. Often I will read a book about what art is all about. ***
Christy Newhouse Branham: Prepare early and organize!!!
Erika Ilona: First day of school, have the kids do art! Then, during their 2nd class discuss rules and expectations.
Darrah McCann Baden: On the first day of school I let every student know they can’t make a mistake and the only limit in art is their own imagination!!
Christine Besack: Seating charts and name tags to lay on the tables to begin to learn, ( or relearn) their names.
Candis Scholl-Christopher: I pre-plan projects for each element by grade level. Doing so, I can spread out projects that require major prep time on my behalf and group projects that require similar supplies. Since I am always cold in the fall and winter, running the kiln is an added bonus then.
Tricia Bevan Farr: Rules, expectations, and then a ‘free draw’ to see what they chose to draw and their ability level.
Patti Wright:First, do everything school-based that you are expected to have ready for opening day. Then do your art prep. Keep checking those emails frequently, because things change! Take a moment of silence, then, take a long, deep breath and relax. You are an Art teacher and you’ve got this!
Julia Morgenthau Smith Ruszkai: Keep it simple. Start with the basics. During the first few weeks of school I have students begin to understand classroom expectations and goals. They will all be part of a large all school project. This helps get things seen in the hallways for open house. Another mainstay is I have students start the year by drawing their self-portrait that I put in a time capsule.
Beth L Patts: Be firm but fun and fair. Use patience and remember to act, don’t react. Humor goes along way. Your first year of teaching will provide you with so many learning moments and moments that you will laugh about for many years.
Carmen Mitchell Jones: Make sure that your space is set up like you want to keep it. In my experience, respect for your room and everything else that happens in the room, starts with students’ first impressions. If they feel respected and comfortable they will ensure that the room maintains that feeling.
Pam Laurie: My students begin the year by making and designing their portfolios to keep their artwork in throughout the year. They take great pride in this project and they love to have their classmates sign their portfolios at the end of the year before taking them home.
Trish: I give my students paint brushes and paint on the first day of school!
Clara Crosby: Make sure that students learn something and that they get to do some art on the first day!! The first day is everything!
Hillary Hubacker: I teach middle school and routine is everything, but we start the year by filling out an “about me worksheet” where I learn a little about them, make our “agreements” and all trace a hand on the same page, and then get creating! This year I think our first project will be “the If my life were a movie poster” project….
Vicky Siegel: I always go over rules and expectations but then start our first project. Last year I started with a DOT project for International Dot Day. This way I had a quick project to hang up for the hallways!
Amy Baker: My students each create an All About Me puzzle piece and they get put together and hung in the hallway!
Sarah B.: I always go over rules and procedures, and talk about what art is, and read the book “Art is..” and older kids decorate their art folder.
(Note from Marcia.. I love to read the book Art is… also. It’s a great one!)
Emily: The first day of school we paint. I go over the rules using memes. Then the students get to paint. It makes going over the rules fast because the students want to have enough time to paint.
Sarah Ackermann: A great way to start the year off right is by diving into creation right away! Students are excited to be in your room – put the tools in their hands and set expectations by doing!:)
Rebekah Cohen: Rules and routines are the first things we go over, but even more important is practicing those routines. I work in an urban school. I also do a Dot Day project at the beginning of the school year
Mc Corsini: I usually have the students participate in a school wide collaboration project….impressive for open house night a couple of weeks into the school year!
Check out these collaborative projects ideas.
Kathryn: Think very carefully about your routines and procedures for you and for the kids. Be sure you keep them easy to be consistent.
Laelja: Smile first! Rules and procedures next. Then get right into materials and make some art! I have kinder do an instructed self portrait to get a baseline of skills. I save it to show growth at the end of the year.
Kim Amor: A quick 5 minute reminder of Art room rules and we dig right in to creating Art. . . Usually something quick like a Zentangle or an optical illusion the kids love to create.
Aislinn Massia: I started this year by introducing my rules and procedures with pictures of funny memes. My middle schoolers loved it.
Shelly: We discuss inspiration for art. How some artists find it by looking at other art or around the world they live in or the emotions they are experiencing. We talk about memories and reality versus dreams and creations that combine them. I have my students recreate a memory from their summer to share that they are excited about or that they felt was special and unique and that could motivate them on tough days through a drawing project on their sketchbook cover. The next day we create a place we think that would be fun to go that might combine parts of our favorite place, places we hope to go and things we love to do or would like to do at some point. These follow the first as a back cover. Students place their works next to one another and students do a gallery walk. Students then discuss the works and we learn about constructive criticism and artist’s statements. After the critique we write an artist statement for each. The last day of the week, we talk about assessment. I see my students for 5 days in a row, making this easier, but have done it with seeing students once every 4-8 days. This hits many topics, vocabulary, and critique and assessment processes. We use this information to begin the building of our sketchbooks for the year. I cut 4″ x 8 1/2″ tag board tents for name plates and have the students write their names on day 1 this helps me learn/ remember names after the break and we use that name tag to bind our sketchbooks so everyone’s name is in the same place and so that it helps me along the way. I have students store sketchbooks in a table portfolio that’s color matches the color table for easy passing out and retrieval. A tip, give yourself permission to teach the same concept with a variety of lessons versus every student learning the concept with the bane project. This makes better bulletin board displays, kids pay closer attention to the displays because they are looking at the projects they didn’t do and applying learned information to that, and your art show works are going to be of a wider and more varied range or works versus all being the same works repeated. Also, don’t be afraid to do the same lesson but use different colored paper or different sized and shaped papers to make it easier to i.d. no name papers with their class stack.
Kristin T.: I play a draw me something game. Fold the paper in fours so you get eight boxes total. Then I give a topic. Draw me your favorite food, your family, you like to do etc. I get to know the kids in a fun exciting way!
Susan: One tip to make the year go smoothly- label all supplies in a kid friendly way and give a tour of the room/scavenger hunt. Then, gradually give the kids responsibility for getting and returning supplies. Less running around for me to do, kids have ownership, and builds a sense of community!
Katie: Dole out assigned seats. Teach and practice silent signals. And most importantly, always always start a project.
Sadie P.: I work hard to make sure as I unpack the art supply shipments that everything goes in its proper place–staying organized is really key for me. The art room gets pretty chaotic very quickly so I need to have a system for knowing where all of my supplies are. I also start very low-key in terms of materials–markers, pencil and crayons. Paint can wait until the students have gotten the routines of the art room down. And as far as a first class, I like to have the students help create a collaborative bulletin board so the school has some color and we can advocate for art right away, especially as back-to-school night is early in our school year. Many years I have focused on “The Dot” since International Dot Day in September 15.
Lisa: I’ve taught for 18 years, but this is my FIRST year teaching my passion…ART. I’m very excited to start this year and I like a lot of the comments above (may implement some of your ideas). I will definitely try to stay organized, implement routines for the classroom, & stay positive through this NEW adventure. Yay!
Gloria Carrico: We play a game with the art supplies. I have a “mystery box” with the supplies and media; the students take turns reaching in the box to find an item and then we talk about where that supply is located in the room and the correct way to use it and clean it. We then start an art project that is inspired by the student’s name (different projects for each grade level).
Ingrid: I start by making table tag seating charts and going over a few procedures including what we would do in fire and tornado drills. Then we definitely start a project, even if it is just the very first steps.
Dolores: I teach preschool children in a low income preschool in Ann Arbor, Mi. I like to start the school year off by bringing in real works of art from the downtown district library and hang the art work in our classroom. We talk about what colors, shapes, images and feelings the painting evoke in us. Then we learn more about the artist and artwork and try to design and create our own one-of-a-kind artwork inspired from the art the kids are exposed to in the classroom. I try to bring in a wide variety of artwork that really expresses emotion and color so young children can relate and learn at the same time. They love learning about new artists and ideas! Me too.
Box Artist: Rules and seating first day, vocab the second, draw your neighbor the third, then fix your seating because by now you might get an idea of who is a jerk before you get into the routine, and you can re-seat them. You’ll also know who can follow directions via the notes, and basic skill level from the drawings. I save them and return them on the last day.
Julie Mueller Cacciola: For high schoolers: I did a Scavenger Hunt last year. It worked like a charm! I had 2 lists (same stuff-just in a different order) to alleviate traffic issues. I also do assigned seats right away just to instantly put the control on me. (Change up the seating later depending on each class).
Julie Diaz Tabeling: Love an art room scavenger hunt including things I want and need them to know the location of such as pencil sharpener, all 4 trash cans, all 3 color wheels, etc. may do a quick one but I wanted to start with a painting activity this year (after rules and seats). It is going to be centered around 3 cans of vocab: one is full of colors words, one full of adjectives (bumpy, energetic, loud, straight, crazy…) and one full of marks artists can make (square, line, triangle, oval, portrait, landscape, etc). A student will pick one word from each cup, and everyone paints that thing (bumpy blue line for example) on the paper covered table. Will change or keep paper from class to class depending.
Joni Siler: Always a seating chart. A fun art project with a song and puppets. I use markers or pastels the first day. Older kids develop art around their name. Reversal rubbings. Keith Harring figures with personal symbols. Name in 3-d letters
Ian Sands: On the first day of school… I have my kids get to work. I don’t do seating charts or go over rules and I’ll explain why. Remember the first day of school when you were in HS? All the teachers talked for hours and you were bored out of your mind.
Students know the rules, they can pick their seats, they can be responsible. I think they appreciate the feeling of being trusted. So I just start working..
Sometime I just put a skeleton in the middle of the room and all I say is, draw that. Then 20 minutes later I might add, this is Art, I’m Mr Sands.
This year I think I’ll take them to the hall, given the masking tape and say, those lockers bore me. Fix it. I don’t give a lot of instruction, if any.
Steph Brooks: My students are young and getting used to a new school and schedule, so the first class is a success if they can relax and look about the room and investigate and play with some supplies. Since it is elementary I try to read a book. But basically I want their curiosity peaked and for them to feel at ease.
Janine Campbell: John Dewey said that we learn by doing, so we get started with doing something. No kid wants to be sent to the office on the first day, so I give them the messiest materials first. I usually start with clay on the first day with 7th grade and paint with 8th. We focus on leaving a legacy with art from the start. Clay is for our annual Empty Bowls event and paintings are for the school. When painting, I incorporated “The Dot” into it and even Peter H. Reynolds commented on our blog. You can read more about it on our class blog at www.bcwmsart.weebly.com
Theresa: Last year After reviewing routines and procedures, each student decorated a die cut flower. All the flowers from each grade level were combined on the hallway bulletin boards to create large grade level flowers. It was an easy first day(s) project that gave the hallway color and allowed the students to have a finished project.
Katie Morris: I’ve done several different things on the first day of school, but I usually try to go over expectations and basic procedures, then an activity. One of my favorite things to do with intermediate aged students is to have a bunch of art history posters hanging in the hallway and then go out there for some sort of activity that gets the kids looking and thinking. The first year I gave all the students a die-cut shape and asked them to choose a favorite artwork, write a sentence explaining what they liked about it, and tape their shape sentence on the wall near it. It ensured we didn’t have empty hallways, the students looked, picked, and wrote, and it made a great visual of what kind of art they were most interested in. Another year I made a scavenger hunt with more than one possible answer for each. I have ideas here: http://www.thesmartteacher.com/exchange/resource/1320/Hallway-Gallery-Activities
Jenna M.: I’ve done an “I Spy” activity where I take close up or abstract photos from around my room and the students have to find where the photo was taken from their seats. Then we quickly talk about the procedure or rule that pertains to that area/tool. It’s a lot of fun for everyone as well as engaging because it gets competitive between the tables.
Do you have any tips or ideas for the first day of school? Share them here.
Are you looking for some fun lessons to start this school year? Check out my TPT shop for this bundle of 6 lessons.