Relationship Building

3 Ways to Keep Engagement High Through the End of the School Year

chalk mandala

You’re in the final stretch of the school year, and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Art teachers tend to have a lot on their plates fourth quarter, but just because the school year is winding down, it doesn’t mean your students’ engagement level has to as well.

This can be a stressful time of year, but here are 3 simple ways to excite students and keep your sanity.

1. Try introducing a new material.

tooling foil

One great way to keep students engaged is to introduce a material they haven’t used before. Metal repoussé, paper or yarn weaving, unusual drawing surfaces, sticks of charcoal, and more can make students excited to create all over again.

One idea is to allow students to make their own golden treasure inspired by Mayan artifacts. Take a look at traditional Mayan glyphs, and contemporary takes on the Mayan style with these Pokémon glyphs.

Whether or not your students are fans of Pokémon, you can use the examples as a discussion on the Mayan style of drawing. Ask students to sketch and recreate a traditional Mayan glyph before designing one of their own.

Once they have grasped the style and sketched an idea, they’re ready for an exciting new material! Tooling foil is essentially a drawing surface, but with gold, copper, and silver metallic shiny colors, students will love creating these works of art.

tooling foil

Using a soft pad of newspapers underneath the foil, students can draw on either side to create a subtle relief of their glyph drawing. Once the design is complete, allow students to use permanent markers in a variety of colors, to accent their glyph. Be aware that some students may try to go overboard with color. Stress that in this case, less is more, and to leave a majority of the metallic color to shine through.

2. Encourage students to collaborate.

You may think collaboration at this point in the year is a bad idea. Sometimes group work can get loud and chaotic. However, if you structure an engaging project, you’ll be surprised at how much students can focus and work together to create new works of art.

Mandalas can be a great exercise in radial design, color, and pattern. You can tailor the project to reinforce other concepts your students have previously worked on, too. Color schemes, line quality, contrast, etc. can become different points of emphasis.

chalk mandala

If the weather is nice, take your students outside with some sidewalk chalk and encourage small groups to work together to form a large mandala. Students can start with a symbol or design for the center, and each student can add to the design from there. Students take turns, switch colors, build on one another’s ideas, and end up with an impressive work of collaborative art.

3. Put yourself in their shoes.

Think about the current trends your students have been talking about all year; fidget spinners, video games, cell phones, sneakers, etc. These are all potential prompts for drawing and design projects.

Give students a blank template of their trendy item and let their imaginations and creativity run wild. Each student can apply their favorite colors, logos, characters, etc. to create a one-of-a-kind design. This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss how designers are needed in almost every field. The skills they are learning in your classroom can help them prepare for a future career.

fidget spinner artwork

Another option would be to set up various still life arrangements of their most-talked-about gadgets of the year. When students are invested in what they are creating, they are more likely to be engaged in deeper level thinking. They might not be thrilled to draw a bowl of fruit but could get excited about a pile of game controllers, an arrangement of cosmetic items, a group of sports equipment, etc.

Put yourself in their shoes and enjoy a class period of students engaged in their artmaking, applying what you’ve previously taught them, poised to end the year on a high note.

If you’re feeling stressed at the end of the year, that’s okay. Try to alleviate some stress by enjoying your last weeks with students creating art. Try a new material, have students work together, and keep your projects student-centered so they will be as engaged in their learning the last weeks of school as they were at the beginning of the year.

How do you deal with stress at the end of the school year?

Do you have any go-to projects for the end of fourth quarter?

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.


Jordan DeWilde

Jordan DeWilde, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. He aims to encourage students’ individual creativity through a diverse and inclusive curriculum.

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