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Why You Should Demo Everything for Your Youngest Students

youngest students

In the art room, there is a time and place for vague directions, experimentation, and exploration. But, sometimes specific, detailed, and modeled instructions are necessary for certain projects. My curriculum is set up in a way that allows for my youngest students to explore a material before we use the material for a project. I am not solely product-driven. But, the finished product allows me to assess students’ understanding and application. I’ve found students achieve understanding and application when I do my part as demonstrator.

Today I’d like to share tips for creating a great demonstration, as well as why demonstrating even the simplest procedures works wonders.

When demonstrating, I try to do the following 5 things each time.

1. Provide clear, concise, and detailed verbal instructions.

2. Present a full demonstration for each step of the process.

3. Pause and check for understanding.

4. Provide a visual.
Visuals are helpful to refer to throughout the class and handy if a project continues for more than one class.

5. Re-demo for the whole group, small groups, and individuals as necessary.
In addition to getting started on the right foot, demonstrating things like procedures, material usage and clean-up skills can be a powerful classroom management tool.

In my elementary room, I demonstrate EVERYTHING because…

My students feel more successful when they have a clear path to get started. 

There is still room for my students to be challenged, practice problem-solving skills and think critically during work time.

I assume nothing. 

Young students especially may have little or no prior knowledge about materials. This includes opening and closing glue bottles, using scissors, putting marker caps and glue caps back on, and washing a brush between colors. It’s best to demo these simple skills, so students can become independent.

I see my students once a week.

That is a minuscule percentage of their time at school. Demonstrating helps to jog their memories from week to week, and takes the stress off remembering, preventing information overload!

Demonstrating, in addition to verbally talking through what I’m doing reaches most learners. We know that all students learn differently. A mix of verbal and visual is always a winning combination.

Once engrained and practiced, students will become familiar with routines for certain materials and less direction and coaching are needed. This means at the beginning of the year and after long breaks you may find yourself doing a few short demos each class period, but it’s time well spent!

How do you decide if something warrants a demonstration? 

Where do you most often demo? At a workspace? Using a document camera? With small groups? What works for you?

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek


Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.