Classroom Management

The Perfect Project to Keep Your Middle Schoolers on Track

In any given middle school art class, students of all abilities, capacities and talents are part of the classroom environment. With so many skill levels present together, many times students find themselves far ahead in projects (or lagging way behind).

Keeping the class moving at a reasonable pace, all together, is not always possible.

middle schoolers on track project

One way I tackle this issue with my middle school students is an ongoing project we call the Pen Doodle. The Pen Doodle project is introduced at the beginning of the class term and continues until the last week of class. Students are asked to use an entire black ink pen in one drawing. Not only does this encourage an immense amount of detail in their work, but it can help students refocus their attention and even generate new ideas for upcoming projects. Doodling allows students to express emotions in their own ways and with time, eases anxiety.

Here are the details of the project. 

– Students are given one, new ballpoint ink pen and a sheet of 12” x 12” white cardstock (although colored cardstock would be stunning too!).

– Students are asked to only draw on one side of the paper.

– Students are encouraged to refrain from from coloring in large areas black. I demonstrate how to make different “shades” by using different drawing/shading techniques like hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling and by using varying amounts of pressure when drawing.

– Students are in charge of coming up with the subject matter for their doodles, but sometimes it’s beneficial to use themes to help unify the drawings.

– Students turn in the drawings and the empty pens when finished.

This ongoing project is perfect because it not only engages students in drawing but provides a meaningful way to use their extra time. However, those are not the only advantages to doodling in class. The belief that doodling is beneficial for the brain has been around for a number of years, but recently there has been intense research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology confirming that doodling helps not only students, but adults focus and retain new information. Check out two finished pieces below!

Doodle 2


Doodle 1

What to learn more about the power of doodling? Here’s a great article that highlights some recent findings on doodling and its benefits.

How have you used doodling in your class to enhance learning?

How do you handle speedy students in your room?


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.


Tracy Hare

Tracy Hare, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She strives to deepen students’ 21st-century skills by encouraging them to practice critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

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