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It is May, and with the warm weather and the beautiful flowers come new challenges in the art room. Students who before had no trouble getting straight to work now seem to be struggling with focus. The noise in the room increases to near record levels. Students’ energy levels are over the top! Sound familiar?
Because of altered schedules due to testing and other interruptions, it can be hard to create consistency this time of year. It is tempting to become more relaxed with classroom management. This is a common mistake that teachers make (yes, I have been guilty of this myself).
You worked hard to establish good routines with your students early in the year. Make sure you continue to practice them. You have been consistent with behavior expectations all year long. This is not the time to start to let things slide. It can be hard to maintain this structure when you and your students are tired, but it is so important.
Do you have something that you know the kids would love to use, but have been saving it for the right time? Well, this is it! I always save several fun lessons for this time of the year. I know that my students will love them, and they are always on their best behavior for a special project. It’s all about keeping the students engaged.
I am not a fan of imposed silence in the art room. I believe that artists need to be relaxed and free to share ideas to be creative. Having said that, I have found that providing students with a small amount of silent time to start class can help set the tone for the entire period.
I use this strategy all year long, but I really rely on it this time of year. At the beginning of class, set a timer for 5 minutes. Make sure that it is easy to see, and that the students can hear it beep. These five minutes are for quiet focus. No talking is permitted until the timer goes off. If students talk, I add a minute. They catch on pretty quickly that I expect them to be quiet. Once the timer goes off, students are free to talk again. I have found that they rarely get loud or off-task after they’ve had this time. This is not presented as a punishment to my students, but rather as an opportunity to get into their artwork. They love it and ask for it when I forget.
The weather is amazing, and even you are looking longingly out the window. Why not bring your students outside? There are many art lessons that can be taught and worked on outside. Weaving, drawing, plein air painting, sidewalk chalk, the list goes on and on. The students love it, too.
My room is often silent when I leave the lights off. This is not because I enforce a quiet zone, but because natural light creates a calming mood. If you have windows that provide your room with natural light, turn off the lights to create a soothing space for students to work. I have found that my students really enjoy this, and some protest if I suggest turning the lights on. If you do not have windows, small lamps throughout the room are another good option to create a calm mood.
I am a big fan of soothing instrumental music in the art room. Try to avoid lyrics or anything with a strong beat if you are trying to encourage calm and focus. I love to play piano or flute music. Think of music you would do yoga to. I have found that playing music with the lights off is a great recipe for a calm and productive classroom.
Sometimes the increased energy of springtime can translate to a louder art room. Although the noise may be a sign of lost focus, it is not always so. Look at your students as they work. Are they working and talking at the same time? Are they energetic but still focused? Ask yourself if the noise you hear is impacting productivity. If it is not, there may be nothing you need to do.
So there you have it- seven different ways that you can help your students end the year successfully, and stay sane in the process. I hope that these tips help you maintain a focused and productive art room.
What do you do to keep your classes running smoothly at the end of the year?
How do you create a calm and inviting space for students to work?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.