Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
DEVELOPING YOUR ART-CLASS PROCEDURES
by Heidi O’Hanley
It’s the beginning of the school year, and you’re off to a brand new start! Many educators have been setting up for years while others are starting in their first year of teaching. The start of the school year means a clean slate to begin fresh in designing your procedures, which is how you want your art class to run smoothly for the entire school year.
Before you begin, know that not every procedure you develop is going to work. As much as you think it will be smooth sailing, you need to treat your rules and procedures like a pilot program. Sometimes, you’re going to need to tweak a rule or two here and there for success.
Here’s a checklist of procedures you should develop in the beginning of the year. Organizing your routines for students will help make classes run smoother.
1. Pass-Out Procedures After introducing a project (or even continuing a project), figure out how the materials and projects will be passed out. If you just say, “Come and get it!” you will have a flock of students clamoring to you to see who gets their project first, and there may be hair pulling. Consider having your materials ready, calling a table at a time (or desk group), or choosing specific students to pass out each week.
2. Clean-Up Procedures Just like passing out, cleaning up can be just as hairy. I give about 5 minutes at the end of my classes, explain where things go, and count from one to ten to give the students a measured time to clean. We use the “quick, quiet, clean” routine because I want students to be responsible for their own messes and to not rely on anyone else. Sometimes, with messy paint or clay projects, I even have specific students help collect larger materials (such as clay clothes or paint trays) to make cleanup easier.
3. Material Management If you’re in a classroom or a cart, it’s always best to have your materials as organized as you can. In my classroom, I have six boxes total each of crayons, markers, and colored pencils for projects. This saves on arguments in the room! Check the boxes periodically to make sure materials are even and organized (or you can have “teacher’s team” helpers do this for you).
On a cart, consider smaller supply boxes that can be passed out to student groups. The supply boxes are easy to open and close and saves on spilled materials during clean up.
4. The “In Case of Emergency” Kits Have you ever had those moments when you run out of pencils, erasers, or even water? I know I have, and it’s a pain to refill when you’re in the middle of managing a class! In my drawers, I have back-ups of sharpened pencils, erasers, dry-erase markers, and water bottles for those emergencies that randomly pop up.
5. Volume Control In their classrooms, students know what is expected of them with talking and working. In your class, you make the call. Some teachers like quiet classes with no talking, but I like collaboration. Managing noise levels can be very tricky and needs to be manageable for you.
Consider giving a prompt when students start getting too noisy. My co-worker does the “Mona Lisa” prompt. When students hear her say “Mona,” they call back “Lisa,” then quiet down so they know the teacher has something to say. In my class, I assign a “noise manager” table to raise hands when their class gets too loud.
6. Where to Find the Water If you have a sink in your room, you’re golden. For many others, we must find the water source. I’m in a classroom without a sink, so to help with water management, I found the closest water closet in the school. I also have back-up water jugs for those emergencies that pop up. Plan in time for water fill ups during your schedule so refilling does not interfere with your class procedures. I highly recommend getting 5-gallon water jugs if you have no close sink resource.
7. Art Jobs Assigning art jobs in the classroom can make your routines run so much smoother! For example, my class has six tables. Each table has a job that changes each week. I have: pass-out projects, collect projects, noise managers, material counters (check pencils and erasers at the end of each class), floor checkers (for loose materials on the floor), and teacher’s team (for the random extra helpers needed for some projects). Each week, the students check to see what their job is and they perform it well.
Whether you are in a classroom or teaching from a cart, find what procedures work best for you, and be sure to have fun this school year!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.