3 Projects Every Art Teacher Tries Once

We’ve all seen these cliché art lessons–the lessons you immediately think of when you think of “art class.” Perhaps you even did these art lessons when you were in school. Once we begin our careers, against our better judgement, we just HAVE to try them.

Here are three projects it may be time to let go of.

1. “Under the Table” Art Inspired by Michelangelo 
I get it. The coolest teachers allow students to crawl under the tables and make art. Kids will never forget it. They are excited. There is some art history incorporated here. However, that’s where it ends. Newsflash: Kids actually can’t draw well upside-down, and most of the time they really just want to mess around under the tables. It’s like free draw, but more chaotic. I tried it during student teaching. Never again!
2. Marble Painting in a Box Lid
This is a typical early childhood lesson that involves dipping a marble in paint and rolling it around in a box lid. Mess-free painting, right? Wrong. That little marble is a slippery sucker and needs constant reloading. I’ve even tried this project 1:1, but it’s not worth the hassle. Although fun, there are better ways to teach line, and painting for that matter, to young students.

3. Finger Painting
If you want to perpetuate every negative stereotype about art class, go ahead, let your kindergarteners finger paint. Sensory experiences are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. However, by Kindergarten, children can learn to use a brush properly. Their fine motor skills are developed enough to hold a brush and use nearly any tool in the art room. Set the bar high and save the fingerprinting for your toddler at home.
Go ahead, art teachers–wear your colorful earrings and scarves, drive cars with art supplies bursting from the seams, and walk in late to every PD session, but please, please, no more finger painting! I hope this tip gives you something to think about, and chuckle about, on your winter break! 🙂

What “classic” lessons have you tried?


Which would you recommend? Which would you throw out?


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.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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