Relationship Building

5 Activities to Energize and Engage Students

rainbow art

There comes a time of year where our students seem like they are more on edge, or they become a little more antsy than usual. It might be due to a change in season, a change in the routine schedule, or an upcoming break. It isn’t easy to hold our students’ attention during these times, and behaviors start to skyrocket. The last thing we want in our classes is out of control students who aren’t focused on their work.

How do we prevent our classrooms from turning into chaotic spaces? Simple! Through student engagement. As these difficult times arise, it’s vital to plan lessons and activities that spark genuine interest to help students remain excited and curious about coming to art class.

Here are 5 activities sure to engage your students during those extra trying times of the school year.

1. Pop Art

student portrait work with flex

Pop culture is a huge part of our students’ lives, so most students are excited to learn about the pop art movement. Teaching your students about pop art and the artists who are part of the movement is always exciting because they can easily see the connection between art and their daily lives. Pop art allows students to focus on their interests and incorporate the people, things, and objects that are important to them in their artwork. Because of the subject matter, students will be engaged and excited to work. This is why saving your pop art lessons for a hectic time of the year can work to your benefit!

Check out FLEX Curriculum’s Exploring Pop Art Collection

2. Crystalized Sculptures

chrystalized Sculptures

Students are fascinated by experimental processes. Lucky for us, the art room is full of scientific happenings. When looking for captivating activities, anything in the 3D realm will usually do the trick. For an added sense of excitement, combine sculpture and experimentation! The borax crystallization process, inspired by Alberto Giacometti, will put a new spin on an introductory sculpture lesson. Instead of using wire or aluminum foil to inspire the Giacometti sculpture style, try using pipe cleaners. With hot water, borax, and pipe cleaners, your students will be able to grow crystallized sculptures following these instructions.

3. Collaborate for the Season

rainbow art

Research says there is a correlation between the change of season and student behavior, which we undoubtedly see in our classrooms. Whether it be spring fever or the winter blues, this change in behavior can serve as a reminder that the students and teachers in your building are due for a much-needed mood booster. Chances are the students in your classes are ready for a break and need something new to excite them as well. There’s no better way to do this than by collaborating with students to create artwork for the entire school community to enjoy. Taking a few days for students to create art related to the season, an event or just something to add color and joy to the halls of your school might be the solution you and your students need.

4. Start a Creativity Challenge

collaborative materials

Who doesn’t love a little competition? For some reason, when you mention the words “winner” or “prize,” our students transform into the most focused beings! When you have a day when your students need a little extra excitement to get those creative juices flowing, try using a creativity challenge. This ideation challenge from Nick Gehl, not only is a fun activity, but it also helps students understand the process of creating original and outstanding ideas.

Check out Generating Ideas for Art PRO Learning Pack

5. One-Day Activities

There will always be chaotic times in the school year, but we still want our students engaged and learning. One-day lessons that focus on the process are the perfect solution. Here is a list of six one day process-focused activities that will engage your students.

  • Scratch art
  • Marker prints
  • Glue, salt, and watercolors
  • Squeegee painting
  • Sun prints
  • Marbelized chalk prints

Check out more details about each of these activities here.

There will be more difficult times throughout the school year that are out of our control. When these times arise, it’s important to have a bank of activities to continue to engage our students in the process of artmaking!

What’s your favorite activity to engage your students?

What do you do when you find your students in a motivation rut?


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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