8 Fundamental Routines That Will Transform Your Art Room

Art class can be a messy whirlwind of chaos if expectations and routines aren’t established or consistent. Routines provide sanity and safety for both the teacher and the students. When students know what is expected of them, there’s less room for confusion, and in turn, less room for misbehavior.

Below are the essential routines that allow my art room to function like a well-oiled machine.

1. Entering the art room in a consistent, quiet manner

This can work week-to-week or day-to-day. I use a visual prompt at my door each day for students to read as they enter.

2. “3-2-1, Show me the Mona Lisa”

This is an awesome attention-getter I learned in the AOE Managing the Art Room course! Students know to imitate the Mona Lisa when I call for attention. This happens to work for my Kindergarten through sixth grade students. Here are some other great attention-getters! Whether it’s verbal or not, the idea is to keep it consistent so that students know how to behave when the prompt is given.

Mona Lisa

3. Clear and concise communication

This is specifically for demonstrations, general directions, and directions for transitions. I aim to only share essential information with my students while giving directions of any sort. This way, I don’t over-burden them or lose attention as I drone on. My daily directions may change, but the routine for students to transition to their seats remains the same.

4. Getting my attention

Two of my biggest headaches occur when students shout my name over and over or follow me around like a row of ducklings. I am clear that I help those who raise their hands and wait patiently. This is the trickiest routine for me! Students are so eager and excited, sometimes even I forget and give in to their blurting.

5. Materials Management

I have designated jobs for distributing, maintaining, organizing, and counting materials. Locations and spaces are clearly labeled for students to access materials autonomously. It may seem tedious, but at the end of each class we count our supply baskets. We make sure the same number of materials are in the baskets that were there in the beginning. This step ensures that future classes have enough materials. It also ensures that I don’t waste the art budget on the same materials over and over.

Table Jobs

6. Finishing work early

Within the first few weeks of school, I share the activities available to students when, or if, they finish a project early. These include how-to-draw books, the art room library, or other art-related games and activities. They know to pick one of these activities without distracting others.

7. Cleaning Up

Using the jobs mentioned in #5, this streamlined approach to clean-up transformed what could become a chaotic time in my art room.

Clean Up Directions

8. Lining up to leave

After clean-up, students are left in their seats with nothing but their sketchbooks and their body basics at the end of class. Tables are chosen based on their speed of clean-up and their silent readiness to line up. We leave the art room when the line is quiet and ready to enter the hallway using our school-wide hallway basics.

I have adapted these routines to work for me from year to year and even class to class. It’s important to find routines and expectations that you are comfortable with and can carry out with fidelity. I keep a short list of resources and strategies if I find a routine has become ineffective. My favorite classroom management guru, Michael Linsin, has multiple books on this subject. He encourages us to seek and employ routines that “model every repeatable moment of your day.” Always explain your expectations in detail. Model, practice, and reteach if necessary.

If you’re looking for even more management tips, check out my 5 Steps You Can Take Now to Reduce Management Issues Later!

What are your fundamental routines? Do you have one of which you’re the proudest?

What is the one routine you couldn’t live without?

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.


  • Kendall

    Alecia, is there an article that goes more in depth with your jobs? Im curious about how many kids are out of their seats during class. Or how the noise monitors respond to kids that are too loud? Thanks.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hi Kendall,

      I go in depth with my job descriptions in the comments of this article: https://theartofeducation.edu/2014/05/23/the-clean-up-routine-that-transformed-my-art-room/

      There are actually very few students out of their seats during work time. Materials masters are up and around at the beginning and end of work time, and the noise monitors have permission to be up reminding other tables about noise levels.

      See my comment answer above for more details about the noise monitors. Generally they remind other tables in a polite manner, and I usually jump in if their first warning from the noise monitors doesn’t work. Noise is also kept in check with our table trophy :)

      Let me know if you have more questions – I’m happy to answer them! :)


      • Yvonne

        I love your table trophy idea. I do have monitors and we work with a stoplight. Everyone enters the room as a scholar. If they follow procedures and instructions, they stay a star. If redirection is required I will say, “Chair 21.” ( Each seat has an assigned Number) A prefect will stand and write the number on the board next to a stop light color. Yellow for the first warning, Orange and Red if continued warnings are required. If the issue is fixed the student can move up to green. If at the end of class every student is on either green or star, the class gets to move their popcorn bucket in the popcorn party race. When the class gets to the end of the race they earn a popcorn party. You have never seen such a well behaved class when they are expecting a popcorn party. For this reason I will also give the students a popcorn party right before a holiday. It off sets all the energy associated with kids getting ready for a holiday.
        FYI the PC Party is really easy. I use an old fashioned air popper. I won’t make the popcorn, if all the students aren’t working quietly. I give each student a handful of lightly salted Popcorn. So easy.
        I buy the popcorn in a 50 pound bag from Sam’s club for $27. It lasts many years.

  • LB

    Hi Alecia, I love all of these systems! Could you give a little bit more information about the noise monitors dismiss other students? Do they just say “we’re ready!” and then go line up?

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hi LB,

      I dismiss the noise monitors to line up and then they call tables that are sitting silently and ready to go to join them in line. They only call tables that are cleaned up and sitting quietly, in body basics. During class, the noise monitors have permission to get up and kindly remind other tables about appropriate voice levels, they also have the opportunity to give and move around our table trophy. The trophy is given to the table that is on task during work time and demonstrating appropriate noise levels. We operate on a PBIS system, so in addition to rewarding positive behavior normally in a class period, the trophy table has the opportunity to earn extra tickets and sometimes even candy, when it’s a random candy week!

      Let me know if you have more questions – and see my response to the comment below! That link might help with more info too!

      Thank you!

  • Ms.LunaArt160

    I teach color theory along with dismissal. “If I gave you a palette with nothing but three colors on it, and told you these three colors can make all the colors in the rainbow, what would they be called?” Class: Primary “What is one of the primary colors?” Which ever correct color they call, those wearing that color shirt is the first to get in line. Once we’re done with the primary colors, I follow suit with secondary colors. Then they line up. Then tints and shades.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Great idea!! How much extra time do you allow at the end of class after clean-up?

    • Yvonne

      I so something similar. Student know to arrange their supplies in ROYGBIV order at the end of class. Students use my ROYGBIV color wheel to remind themselves how to make different colors. The ROYGBIV video on Vimeo is great to introduce the idea to young students. They sing the song and draw the colorful elf, all very cute.

  • Donnalyn Shuster

    I use techniques from Harry Wong. My best practice – Daily Procedure board outside my door. I write on it what each class should do….For example : M5 – cover tables with newpapers; R4 – open your art folders and take out sketches, etc. I use this in my elementary school ( K – 5) – and since I teach in the middle school ( separate building) I use it with the 6th/7th grade…and by the time they get there they are already ‘trained’ to check the Procedure Board !! Makes start of class easy in the MS…while they are doing a Bell Ringer, reviewing, etc….I can get attendance done!! This was one of our tips in ReDesign Your Art Room presentation at the NAEA!!

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  • Yvonne

    I use a little from TLC and a little from Harry Wong. They are very close so blending them is easy. I use a lot of the routines listed above and they work well. I do have one practice which is unusual, but saves me an enormous amount of work. It started when I was teaching art on a cart. Due to scheduling I needed to magically appear at the end of class often on the other end of the building on another floor with my cart. Think very slow elevator. There was no way to switch supplies before going to the next class. It teach one unit to all the grades. I know your thinking that isn’t a good practice, but it works wonderfully. When writing the lesson I make differentiation decision for the various grades including small supply changes. I base each lesson on the work of an artist and create a PP for instruction. The more complicated content is at the end of the PP, so for younger students the lesson is shorter. If I have a class that I know will not manage certain content well, I don’t have to cover it with that class. For example I did a Touche lesson last year on Monet. The older students concentrated on the bridge paintings and the younger on the water lilies. Second and Third grad had stencils to help with painting the bridge. Kinder and first create a mural from their water lilies. Everyone learned the basic of impressionism, all students had a chtallenging project, instruction was easily differentiated.
    I’ve altered many lessons across age and skill levels. Everything from Egyptian art to Chagall’s stained glass.
    The resulting displays are beautiful.

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