Motivate Students With The Great American Sketchbook Game

It would seem art teachers tend to understand the value of the sketchbook assignment more than their students do. While a select few students will consistently return great results, getting a majority of students to even complete sketchbook assignments can be a chore. So, how can the art teacher present out-of-class sketchbook assignments so that the students consistently complete the work with above average results? The answer might be found in the popularity of today’s reality TV game shows. Today I’ll share one idea that you could try in your classroom. I call it The Great American Sketchbook Game.

The Great American Sketchbook Game

The Contestants
As the host, your first order of business is to divide the class into teams of 5 or 6 students. Since not all students are the same artistically, it is important to create teams of students that are at about the same artistic level.

Round One
Instead of giving the entire class an assignment each week, only give an assignment to one team. Let these five or six students know the assignment, the due date and that they will be competing against each other. Tell the rest of the class that although they don’t have an assignment for that particular week, they will be the judges.

Game Day
On the day the assignment is due, have each of the team members present his or her work to the class. The students should explain how and why they chose to answer the sketchbook assignment in the manor that they did.

sketchbook game


After the students have presented, each judge is allowed to vote for the sketchbook he or she believes best solved the assignment. The votes are tallied and the sketchbook with the most votes wins! You might consider prizes for the winner. (Candy goes a long with with high school students.)

Final Round
For the next few weeks, cycle through all the groups. The cycling allows some students to have time off so they don’t feel pressure to create an assignment every week. At the same time, it places emphasis on the week when it is their turn to compete. After cycling through all the teams, you might consider a championship round where each of the winners from the previous rounds competes against each other. Who will be crowned the Great American Sketchbook Champion?!

Please keep in mind, this sketchbook game isn’t for everyone. While most students respond positively to the competitiveness of the game, other students may be less than enthusiastic about participating. The game can be voluntary. Students who wish not to participate can still submit sketchbook assignments to the teacher without playing the game.

Can you see this game being a successful motivator in your classroom? 

What other ways do you motivate students to complete sketchbook assignments? 


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.


Ian Sands

Ian Sands, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. He is a co-author of The Open Art Room and believes art teachers shouldn’t make art—they should make artists.

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