Relationship Building

A Simple Way to Increase Student Engagement

student hands working

With classes coming and going all day long, I used to feel like some of my hardest working students were being lost in the fray. Teaching hundreds of students each week can make it challenging to give students the attention they deserve. I wondered:

  • How can I highlight hard workers?
  • How can I increase engagement in all my classes?
  • What can I do to encourage all students to do their best?

student hands working

So, I implemented a simple strategy that has been very successful. Kids love it, and my students are working harder than ever.

Each week, I highlight a student “Artist of the Week” on the intercom during school announcements.

I choose students who have demonstrated the qualities of successful artists such as hard work, perseverance, problem-solving, and a positive attitude. I choose students who may feel overlooked or out-of-place in art class, as well as, students who may struggle in art and need a little encouragement.

When I let them know that they are the “Artist of the Week,” students are always excited (even if they don’t show it). I share why I chose them and then ask for a quote. I include this quote on the morning announcements. Students love being able to share their art story with the school!

I give each student a certificate commemorating the honor, and post it on my classroom blog. Outside the art room, I hang a picture of the “Artist of the Week.” We fill out this form together, and add it to the display:

Artist of the Week

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So, why should you highlight a student “Artist of the Week”?

1. It defines the qualities of successful artists beyond pure talent.

So often I hear students say, “I am not a good artist.” Many of my students define being successful in art as being good at drawing. By celebrating other qualities like hard work and perseverance, students learn that challenges are part of the creative process. Success is defined much more broadly than just being a “good drawer.”

2. It gives struggling students a chance to shine.

Have you ever had a student want to give up on their artwork as soon as they run into a challenge? It is something that happens in my art room nearly every day. This strategy gives resilient students their moment in the sun. The students who struggle but stick with it deserve to be acknowledged for their hard work.

A. of the W., value studies

3. It encourages all students to do their best.

Since I started highlighting an “Artist of the Week,” students who struggled in the past now work harder than ever. They see that art is not about raw talent but hard work. All my students want to be the next “Artist of the Week,” and they know that working hard is the only way they will be chosen.

4. It communicates the importance of art education to the school community.

This simple strategy highlights the qualities most important to success in art class. These qualities are not unique to art; they help students succeed in other areas of school and life. This strategy accentuates the value and the complexity of what happens in the art room.

Having an “Artist of the Week” has improved the culture in my classroom by leaps and bounds. My students are working harder than ever. Students stop to read the display outside of the art room to see who the lucky kid is each week. Most of all, students are aware of the most important qualities of successful artists: hard work, perseverance, problem-solving, and a positive attitude.

Student motivation is a topic that we cover in the AOE course Managing the Art Room. If you’re looking for even more innovative strategies, consider signing up!

How do you highlight hard working students?

What qualities do you think are the most important for success in art class?

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.


Anne-Marie Slinkman

Anne-Marie Slinkman, an elementary school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about providing relevant and meaningful art experiences for all students.

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