Push Your Students With an Art Room Challenge

There are times when planning lessons that I come up with an idea that would be a-m-a-z-i-n-g but simply isn’t doable with 600 students. Sometimes the lesson would require us using the computer lab for too long: 3 class periods a day, everyday, for 3 weeks= frustrated coworkers. Sometimes the lesson would require too much time: 300+ clay pieces requiring the proper moisture for more than two weeks= yikes. Sometimes the lesson uses things I just can’t afford on my budget: canvas boards for all students= no money for anything else.

That is where an ART ROOM CHALLENGE comes in. A challenge is simply that — a task the students can choose to complete that will challenge what they know and their ability to create. Sometimes the challenge is as easy as adding a “bonus component” to a current assignment. Sometimes it requires the creation of a “bonus” project that must be done on the students’ own time. Check out examples of both from my classroom below.

1. Lesson Extension Art Room Challenge

When studying gesture drawing earlier this year, I started thinking about Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.  That piece led me to Eadweard Muybridge’s action photography which then led me to some current multiple exposure action photos that were awesome. I would have loved to have my students create multiple exposure action photos, but in 6th grade most of my students don’t have a lot of computer editing knowledge and we just didn’t have the time to do the project justice. Enter the ART ROOM CHALLENGE.

Challenge Image 1

I taught the gesture lesson by introducing students to Marcel Duchamp’s image and having them compare it with multiple action photography. We discussed the ways they were similar and different, how they both capture a person in action and how gesture drawing is capturing a person in action too. We went on to create some really fun action photography inspired gesture drawings (see example in the photo collage above).

While I was introducing the students to the lesson, I shared that at the end of the grade sheet was an Art Room Challenge. The challenge was that students would have to create their own version of action photography on their own time. We talked about it for a minute before getting to work on our classroom project. Those students who love technology and wanted to challenge themselves worked on the challenge outside of class. You can check out the gesture drawing assignment example here.

2. Bonus Project Art Room Challenge

About once a quarter, maybe more, I put together a bonus project for my students to complete. There are different “bonuses” for completing the task. It can be extra credit points, it can be that they are registered to “win” a stash of new art supplies or it can be a competition to see who creates the coolest project. Some of my past challenges have included creating pattern filled pumpkins,

Challenge Image 2

stamping paper at home with different types of stamps (see the take home paper here) and redesigning a snowflake coloring sheet.

The Art Room Challenges are always optional, but it is surprising how many students love doing them.

What are some ways you’ve extended lessons for students in your classroom?

Do you ever assign bonus projects? Do you have any great examples to share? 


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.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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