Classroom Management

The Magic Word for No Hassle Cleanup

Some classes take pride in cleaning up the art room, and others don’t! So how do you get a class of twenty-five slobs to transform into enthusiastic, efficient cleaners?

One answer: the “magic word.”

Once I discovered this word, I never had to worry about supplies getting put in the wrong place or things left on the floor again. Complaints and feet dragging are magically transformed into “Did we win?” and “Come on guys, keep cleaning!” I never have art supplies shoved in cupboards, hidden in desks, or left on the floor anymore.

So what is this word that changed my life or at least my clean up time? “Mystery Item.”

That’s it. I tell the students I’m thinking of one “mystery item” that is out of place. I write it on a piece of paper so they know I’m not going to change it. At the end of the five-minute cleanup time, the table who found the “mystery item” gets a prize, sticker, music choice for next class, or whatever the reward is that day.

You should try this “mystery item” trick tomorrow! Some people even call this game “Secret Scrap” – you choose!  Your room will thank you for it, and so will the kids. I promise they will ask to play “mystery item” every art class!

What are ways you encourage students to clean up more efficiently? 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Erica Stinziani

Erica Stinziani, an elementary school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer.

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