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Stepping Stones / September 2017 | Arts & Activities
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Aug 2017

Stepping Stones / September 2017

Stepping Stones / September 2017

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.

by Heidi O’Hanley

It is now the start of the 2017-18 school year. If you are returning to your teaching spaces this month, welcome back! I would also like to welcome our new art teacher colleagues!

In the beginning, I like to offer some advice and ideas to help ease into your new school year. There’s so much to juggle in those first few weeks, from setting up the room, curriculum, and procedures, to trying to balance student names, classes, and materials. We are the definition of organized chaos and we do it with style!

1. Plan your space. When I first walk into my classroom, I’m overwhelmed with the list of things to do, but in creating a checklist, it helps in planning your area. I start with where I want my tables and chairs, demonstration board, desk, then storage. Once you have your big furniture set up, you can move on to the smaller tasks, such as visual displays, bulletin boards, and material organization.

If you have a cart, start off by visiting the classrooms to view the spaces you’ll be working in. Look for the outlets, water sources, and communicate about storage concerns.

2. Develop your method of organization. When it comes time to set up the materials, you need to find a way to manage the materials that works for you and your students. For example, if you have common materials, such as crayons/colored pencils/markers, create separate bins for each table for easy pass-out and cleanup. You can label your bins with table numbers, codes, or colors. Labeling the bins also saves on arguments. I recommend doing the same with pencils, erasers, scissors, and glue. This method is also true for carts. If you visit different classrooms, having separate bins helps with transitions as well.

3. Organize your classes. Prior to the first day of attendance, you should receive a list of students who will be attending your classes, whether it is a classroom cluster or students who registered for your program. The choice of how to seat the students is always up to you.

I learned very quickly that elementary students needed structure when they first walked into my classroom. Once I have the class lists, I started right away on seating charts. With knowing my students as they grow from year to year, I became more familiar with where to place them. In some cases, you may have students transferring in and out in those first few days, so be flexible with your seating arrangements.

Planning a seating chart also helps with getting to know your students’ names if they are new to your classes. If you’re at the junior-high or high school level (and depending on the rapport of your students and the structure of your class), you may be more flexible with seating arrangements.

4. Plan your rules and procedures. How do you wish to manage your classes when students enter your room, or when you enter theirs? On that first day of class, focus on what guidelines and procedures work best for you. Be sure to explain to the students where you want them to be sitting when your class begins.

If you give directions, remind the students to observe the procedures of the projects before jumping right in. Do you want your students working silently, or low voices? Will you be assigning art jobs, or have students independently navigate the room for materials? In the given amount of time you have with your classes you need to structure how you plan to deliver the objectives.

5. Give your students ownership. In definition, find a way to give your students a sense of responsibility while in your class. This can be challenging with younger grade levels, but with time and practice, you will notice an improvement in their behavior.

When my students learn the room, the materials, and expectations they attempt to be role models for others, especially when a new student transfers in. Every week, my students receive a new “art job” to help with material distribution and collection, noise management, teacher helpers, and floor checkers.

6. Be flexible and keep an open mind. Not all beginning-of-the-year set-ups go exactly as planned. Many of us may know this with last-minute room changes or complete class switches. You may also find that a procedure does not work and you need another idea.

If you are just starting out and need to reach out for ideas or support, please remember there is a wonderful social media connection that can help with any questions or concerns. You can visit the “Art Teachers” group on Facebook, or #artsed on Twitter for vast amounts of resources.

Best of luck with the beginning of your school year! 

Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.


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