5 Ways to Make Art on the First Day of School

collaborative artwork

The first few days of school can be tough. Students are still being dropped and added to your classes, making it difficult to teach content. Many of your students’ other classes are going over rules, procedures, and syllabi. Usually, when students get to class you can see the boredom coming from their faces. Sure, it’s important to go over rules and procedures, but does it have to be on the very first day of school? Instead of lecturing, why not teach those management skills by creating art?

Here are 5 ideas for having your students make art on the first day of school!

1. Create Painted Paper

painted paper

Painted paper is nice to have in the classroom. Whether students use it for collage or as backgrounds for other projects, there are so many uses for it. However, sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to make it. So why not do it on the first day of school?

Have students collaborate on large pieces of paper and explore mixing different color combinations. One class might focus on mixing secondaries, while others mix tertiaries or tints and shades.

Creating painted paper will give you the opportunity to show and discuss proper clean-up routines for painting.

2. Do a Design Challenge

design challenge bag and supplies

Design challenges are a great way to start your school year. They involve hands-on learning and can require collaboration and teamwork. You can even create a challenge as an introductory activity to the first lesson or unit you will be teaching.

Check out these articles for ideas!

This list of 5 ideas is a great start. However, if you’re looking for even more in-depth info about planning a successful first day, look no further! The First Day Activities PRO Learning Pack has everything you need to know. You’ll gain specific ideas to excite students on day one through choice, simple routines, and organized stations. Take a peek to set yourself up for success from day 1!

3. Create A Collaborative Artwork

collaborative artwork

Because students’ schedules can change frequently within the first week of school it makes it difficult to start longer-term art projects. You don’t want to waste materials and also don’t want to have to re-teach a lesson to new students joining the class. For this reason, it’s a good idea to create a collaborative artwork. This could be as simple as giving students a 6″ by 6″ square of paper and have them create a drawing that corresponds with a particular theme. For example, you might want to use your school’s theme for the new school year. As students finish their designs, have them help you by gluing their project onto a piece of butcher paper. The hallway walls are often blank for the first few weeks of school, so a collaborative art project will help add a little life!

Here are five specific collaborative projects you can do on the first day of school.

  1. Tie Dye Oil Pastels 
  2. Coffee Filter Art 
  3. Concentric Circles
  4. Monochromatic Self-Portraits
  5. Paper Quilts

4. Complete a Pre-test

Day one in the art room is a great time to see what your students already know. So why not give your students a pre-assessment? Think about the first lesson or unit you are going to be teaching. What skills do you want your students to learn? You might even use this as a differentiation tool to determine students’ current skill levels. This way students can make art on the first day of school and you’ve even tricked them into completing an assessment.

5. Play an Art Game

art sketching game

Because that first week back from summer break can be quite the transition for students, why not bring a little bit of summer into the art room? Most of your students aren’t used to sitting all day so allow them the opportunity to get their energy out. Try playing some sort of art-related game to kick off the new school year.

Check out these ideas:

If you don’t plan on making art on the first day but still want to play a game, try out one of these ideas!

The important thing to keep in mind as you start a new school year is to engage your students. It really isn’t exciting to sit and be talked at for an entire class period. If you haven’t yet, don’t be afraid to try out one of these ideas to get your school year started off on the right foot!

What are your favorite first day of school activities?

Do you make art on the first day of school?

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.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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