Classroom Management

5 Things that Need to Change in 2019 (Ep. 071)

As Cassie looks back at 2018 and reflects on what is and isn’t working, she is starting to determine her goals for 2019. Listen as she talks about her upcoming plans for dealing with student behavior, time management, and how to make your supply organization and preparation easier when there’s so much to do.  Full episode transcript below.

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Cassie: Oh my Lanta, I am looking over my schedule for next week and it is pretty much an explosion of events. Between two performances, a kindergarten performance, an art show that we have coming up, and a singalong at the very last day it is nuts. It’s not like I needed all of those added things to make for a wackadoo schedule.

But you know what? I’m just riding this wave. I know we’ve chatted about that because this is the time of year for me, the week before we get out for winter break, where I really like to do some serious reflecting, otherwise known as this ain’t working and this needs fixing when we come back from break.

I’m really thinking about, after 20 years you think I would’ve had this figured out, but y’all, I’m here to say you will never have this figured out. That’s why teachers teach for like 30 plus years. They’re still trying to figure out. It’s like a Rubik’s cube. You ain’t never going to have it all locked down and all figured out. Some things might work better than others, but for the most part, it’s a mystery.

And if any of you guys know the secret to art teaching, call a girl, clue me in because I haven’t got one, especially this time of the year. So right now, this week, what I’m doing is I’m jotting down what’s working, what’s not working, you would not believe how long that list is, and what my plan of action is come 2019. I’m going to share with you today, this is Everyday Art Room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.

As I’m reflecting on what’s working and what’s not, I narrowed my extremely long list down to five things, five things that are the biggest dumpster fires currently happening in my art room that I’m thinking about what’s working, thinking about what’s not working, and how I want to change that up when we come back from break.

At the tiptop of my list I bet you can guess, maybe it’s at the top of yours, did somebody say classroom management? Why, yes, actually that is at the top of my list. I mean, right now it’s not fair to pass judgment on our little cherubs’ behavior because it’s like five full moons are happening all at once right now. Well, with everything happening and of course, I’ve got an elf on a shelf to throw into the mix which then it just causes all sorts of craziness. Classroom management, discipline, that’s at the top of my list.

I thought I would share with you what is working for me, what’s not working for me, what I plan to do about it. What’s working for me right now as far as discipline and classroom management goes is kind of my old standbys. Let me just say, what works for me is what is super-duper cheap and simple. Basically, two words that describe me, cheap and simple. My happy sad board is something that I’ve talked about I know in a previous podcast, on my YouTube channel I’ve chatted about it and you can see it, but quite literally it is a little dry erase board with a happy face magnet and another magnet that’s a happy face with a slash through it because the girl could not find a sad face magnet.

Basically, if the kids walk in and they sit down and they’re quiet, my little happy sad board is something visible for all kids to see it, it sits on it own little tiny easel stand right at the front of my instructional area. If they can walk in and sit down so awesomely, I just start drawing lines into the happy face. If I have to remind somebody that we’re walking in quietly, basically it’s there to serve as a reminder tool. If I have friends walking in, chatting, or somebody starts talking to me without raising their hand, I’ll be like, “I hear somebody chatting. Oh, what a bummer because the first row is sitting so nicely, but I do hear somebody talking and I do have to draw a line under the sad face.” I love calling kids out so this really makes it so I can kind of address that behavior, fix the behavior, and then just keep moving on without singling a child out.

The happy sad board works great for me. What do I do with those tally marks at the end of our class? Y’all a whole lot of nothing. I can’t keep up with a class behavior chart and doing class parties. I had that idea to do with the happy sad board when I first introduced it, and then I threw that out the window. Basically, this works really, really good with my younger kids. It even works with my fourth graders as well. It just serves as a little reminder of the behaviors that I’m expecting, especially when it’s instructional time and I really need their attention and their focus and them to sit correctly, calmly, quietly, and listen to yours truly. That’s something that’s working for me and I am not touching it. It shall stay.

I also have a little voice monitor system. I know I’ve chatted with you about that before where it’s three paint cans. One paint can is red, one paint can is yellow, one paint can is green. I have a paintbrush that I velcro to the can and it lets them know what I’m expecting of them as far as how loudly they can talk. I usually have the paintbrush on the red can, which means that they are at level what we call at my school level zero which means silent work time. But oftentimes it will get moved to yellow, which means they can whisper and chat with their friends as they’re working as long as we’re talking about art. I’m keeping that because it really serves as a good visual. It is in a place whereas the kids are working at their seat, all of them can look up and see what’s expected of them volume-wise. That’s working.

Another thing that I still love is my time timer. I have two-time timers. One is a little desktop one and another one is a much larger one. I always forget to set the much larger one, but the little one is fabulous. I set it to seven minutes as the kids are trickling to their seat. They’re supposed to work quietly. What I’ve recently started doing, they’re supposed to work quietly for those seven minutes. When the timer goes off, then they’re free to talk softly ideally.

What I’ve started doing is putting my students in charge of the happy sad board and putting them in charge of the timer, especially my hour-long classes. As they go to their seats, I’ll usually pick a third or fourth grader, those are the kids I see for an hour. I’ll say, “Okay, you are in charge of the timer. For the first set it for seven minutes.” It’s like I said, a tiny little, like an egg timer, would work. It’s that size. And anytime they hear somebody chatting when they’re supposed to be working quietly, they’re to add another minute to the timer. So they’re the keeper of the time.

Then the friend with the happy sad board because it sits on its own little easel, they just put it at their seat. And anytime they hear somebody chatting, they are to remind them, hey, we’re working at level zero for a little while or just start drawing lines onto the sad face, their choice. But to me, it relieves me of keeping up with those things y’all. I can’t keep up with the stuff and they love to do it, and they love to be in charge. So me passing the buck off on the kids as much as I can, that’s something I’ve started doing, living for it, loving it, going to keep on doing it.

Another thing that I love to do that I am going to continue to do is reading to my students. Like I said, especially my older ones where I have them for an hour, reading to them. Currently, I love reading Shel Silverstein to them, but I’m really starting to explore some other books, some chapter books that I can read to them. Maybe even looking into over break some audiobooks that are a little bit easier for me to just press and play. I love to read to the kids, but often times it’s just not something I can do. I need to be walking around, monitoring and helping. I’m going to check out audiobooks over break.

Now let me tell you what’s not working as far as classroom management and discipline for me. What I started at the beginning of the year was, and I know I’ve chatted about it both on my blog, is having clips on my caddies, my table caddies. The clips are for me to monitor behavior. If a certain table wasn’t working quietly or they weren’t following directions, I was having them move a clip, and then at the end of every art class, we were recording how many clips they had left.

If you’re lost already, so am I. I cannot keep up with the clips, I cannot keep up with, especially with my 30 minute classes, passing out those folders, recording their score, and then at the end they were supposed to have a party, certain tables that had a certain score. Forget about it. The kids have long since forgotten about it. A random kid every now and then will be like, “Hey, what about,” and I’ll just be like, “Yeah, we’re not doing that anymore.” I can’t keep up. It’s just not something that I can do, and it’s not working for me. So I’m not going to try to force that back on myself. It was just more work for me than what it was worth, especially since I have some things in place that are working.

Cassie: Something else that’s not working is just incentives, like I said, having a class party. How was I going to do that with only certain kids able to have a party? For me, my instructional time is so limited that I don’t know how to go about giving up an art class time and just letting them have a “party”. Granted, I wouldn’t have to necessarily give up the entire class, but it’s just not something that I’ve been able to figure out and make work for me and my kids, so that’s out the window.

New plan. Keeping the happy-sad board. Keeping what works. Keeping the read aloud and I’m scrapping the jobs and I’m scrapping those clips and those folders and those incentives out the window.

All right, moving on. Now let’s talk about time management. I’m talking about not my personal time management, although that definitely needs to be addressed, but time management within the art class, half hour or hour that I have with my kids. Here’s what’s working, and it is only one thing, having my supplies handy. I have my student supplies laid out on a table and I have the table divided into sections so that all the kindergartners know where they’re supposed to gather their supplies, first graders know where to grab their supplies, and then, of course, I usually have a lot of the supplies laid out on the tables. And because I have back to back 30-minute classes, there’s a lot of supplies on the tables. My students know that they are only to use what I tell them to when they go to their tables, meaning there may be paint on the tables y’all, but the paint is actually for kindergarten, you’ll be using the chalk. My kids are now so used to that that they don’t get into the paint. Thank goodness, it’s on the table.

That’s what’s working, having the supplies handy. The days when I have a really packed schedule and I don’t have the supplies handy are the days that I feel frazzled. Fourth grade is like, “Hey, where is our paint? Hey, where is the glitter that we’re using for this,” and I’m running around like a madwoman, like, “Okay guys, form a line right here, get over here,” and then it’s just, it’s not a fun teaching environment for me. I like to have everything ready for them so they can just dive right in.

Here’s what’s not working as far as time management goes. I talk too much. I mean hello, have you noticed on this podcast that I just rattle on and on? I have gotten into a habit of recording myself teaching my students and it’s … I would recommend doing it. All you got to do is set up your phone somewhere where the kids can’t see it because otherwise, they’ll be turning around pulling faces. And then just as painful as it is, go back and watch that. Are you correcting your students too much? Is time lost there because I noticed that for me? Are you having too many interruptions, meaning are people dropping by? Is your phone ringing? Are you spending too much time talking to visitors when they walk in the room? That also I’m guilty of. And are you just explaining something to death? Because that’s what I do.

Something else that’s not working for me is my kids are all over the place as far some work really fast and some work so stinking slow. Obviously, I have a lot to work on. What’s my plan? I am going to get rid of the small talk. Another thing that isn’t working for me is my kids raising their hands and them not knowing the difference between small talk and talk that’s about the lesson. I’m guilty of them of calling on them and they’ll be like, “Oh, my birthday was this weekend. I lost a tooth.” I want to have those conversations with my students, we all do, but in a 30-minute class, it’s a domino effect. One kid loses a tooth, they’ve all lost a tooth. One kid has to go to the bathroom, they all have to go to the bathroom.

I started using an open-closed sign that I found at the Dollar Tree. I started using it at the beginning of the year. I’ve since fallen off, but basically what the closed sign means is that we are closed to small talk, basically it’s we’re closed to having our hands up and talking. Because another thing that I find takes away a lot of my time is reminding my kids that, “Hey, we don’t raise our hands when I’m giving instructions.” Because usually they’ll have a question and so their knee-jerk reaction is to pop a hand in the air. “I’m probably going to address what you have your hand up about, so put your hand down,” because what they’ll do is they’ll sit there and focus on their question or their raised hand and not listen to the instructions. So having that open closed sign I think will kind of get rid of my small talk and then allow me to also eliminate those hiccups in my instructional time with them asking questions that I’ve yet to address.

Another thing I think I will start doing is, and I started doing this recently and it really helped, is setting my timer for of course when art class is over. What I’ve started doing was I set one first grade dude who is a fast finisher. Doesn’t always look nice because he loves to be finished first. So my new rule for him, and I think this will help with my other classes is this, you cannot be “done” until the timer goes off. Meaning if you think you’re finished and the timer has not gone off yet, then I want you to sit and think for just a moment what more can I do. Go walk around the room quietly, see what other people are doing who are still working. Why are they still working? Are they adding more details? Are they taking their time? Then go back to your seat and really think about what more you can do.

Then for my slow friends I’ve started doing a little bit of a countdown. “Okay, guys, this is our last day to be painting spirals on our big piece of paper. We have seven minutes left. You need to hunker down and really focus on getting those done.” It’s not usually a matter of focus with my slow friends. They’re just slow. Usually, they’re my perfectionists. So giving them a bigger paint brush or just letting them know, hey, we have a certain amount of time left and then we are done with this, so how are you going to pull through and finish?

What I think I’m going to continue to do is keep my supplies accessible, but maybe even more so, maybe even I have bins and I have them labeled, but because I’m such a scatterbrain and I’m always running around like a crazy person, a lot of times what’s labeled on the outside of the bin is not what it’s actually in the bin. It’s like a running joke in my art room. When the music teacher and my PE buddies come in and they’re like, “Hey, I need a glue gun. Is what’s actually labeled on the outside glue gun what’s inside here? Do I like just open random cupboards or what?” So I think that having things accessible and making it so it’s like understandable where everything is it’s going to help me out a lot too.

Something else that’s not working for me is that I like you am constantly in panic prep mode. I am prepping, prepping, prepping paint trays, cutting paper, getting stuff ready, and it’s just like I feel like a little hamster in one of those wheels just running and never getting everything finished. I think what’s working is having everything ready as I’ve said, and what also works is having my kids use the same supplies. That’s something that’s really cut down on my prep, meaning if my kids are painting, I’ve decided that, okay, if we’re painting, then everybody is going to be using tempera cakes. I’m not going to be swapping out for watercolor and then tempera. No. If we’re painting, we’re all going to have to use the same supply even if it’s not ideal because with my schedule I cannot be constantly swapping and prepping all of these different supplies.

What’s not working? All of the prepping. So here’s my game plan, my plan of action. I’m thinking about recruiting some older students. I just have to chat with my fourth-grade teachers about when is a good time for those responsible and reliable kids to come down to my room, morning or afternoon? Personally, I would prefer the afternoon. I like a little peace and quiet in the morning, not maniacal kids running around with water cups. I’m thinking about maybe that being a possible incentive for the classroom teachers because I don’t want to put them out. I’m going to go about saying whatever works best for you, is this something that’s possible because it would really help me. Also, as I said earlier, having the supplies accessible and then teaching the kids how to gather and put things away. Getting my bins properly labeled will also probably be something that would work great.

Another thing that I’m thinking about working on is my sketchbook time. What’s working with sketchbook time? The kids love sketchbook time. What’s not working is, is when it becomes for me. I don’t love it when it becomes just random draw time because I see that as a wasted opportunity when it’s basically just like free draw or when they’re grabbing a drawing book or they’re grabbing one of my idea sticks for drawing and they only have seven to five minutes left and they just kind of doodle for a minute and they’re done. I know there’s value in that, but I just want to give them so much more.

Recently this year with our sketchbooks, our sketchbooks are actually folders that have prongs in them like a doctor’s office, two prongs at the top where I can hole punch the top and they can slide papers down. My new plan of action is giving them papers that can be added. Possibly those papers could be reflection sheets or a lot of times what we already do, we just don’t put them in our sketchbooks, is they’re working on a drawing sheet that walks them through the steps for the next project and allows them time to sit and sketch and get a good idea so next art class we can just jump right in to our next art project.

Of course, what I really feel is missing from my art instruction, and I’m going to chat about this next week, is our history in tie ends. I think having those kinds of sheets that they can just add to their sketchbook instead of just having blank sheets of paper, but just something that they can add to their sketchbook that’ll help them really enhance their knowledge of our history, that’s my plan.

And last but not least organization. I firmly believe that some people are born with an organizational gene, and also some people are born able to pronounce things, and then other people were born without it. To me, there is no like gray. You either got it or you don’t, and y’all, I ain’t got. I am so not organized. But here’s what’s working. Most of the time my kids know where things go. They know where dirty paint brushes go. They know where to find their supplies. It’s called “the store”. They know where to put their paintings during cleanup. They know.

Here’s what’s not working. Me. I lose things all the time. I lose my handouts. I lose my examples. I lose piles of student artwork. Like how does that even happen? This organization bit, this is all on me. I really feel like I need a day to be in my room without children. When does that ever happen? For me, fortunately, I can tiptoe in on a Sunday when they’re having church services in my school, and just kind of firmly establish a place for examples, my idea sheets that I share with my kids, and my coffee cup which is always missing.

Those right there, those are the five things I plan to work on. I’m feeling pretty good because knowing what works and what doesn’t is one thing, but having a plan of action is something totally different. I would encourage you, keep that list short y’all, keep it just so like five things because that will feel like a manageable list for you, five things that you want to tweak. It’s not that they’re not working. It’s just you want to tweak them a little bit. Make sure you write down what is working because that’s important. Those are your pros. And then think about what’s not. Don’t be afraid to throw things out the window like I’m going to do.

What works for one teacher might not work for you. And that’s what happened to me. Me trying to establish jobs and me trying to establish this kind of elaborate in my mind behavior plan. That just doesn’t work for me and I am scrapping it without any guilt. And I’m just going to plug away at what I know works well, dial that in, and hone it in or down, or whatever you do with honing, that’s what I plan to do.

Tim: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. Now as Cassie is talking about everything that she wants to do and do better in 2019, I want to add one more thing on your radar, one more thing on your to-do list for 2019, and that is the Art Ed Now Conference which is coming up on February 2nd, 2019.

That is the first Saturday in February and it is an all-day online Conference with all kinds of great ideas coming your way. We’ll have a presentation on art therapy, a presentation on social and emotional learning in the art room, on failing forward, on how to plan and execute a public art project, and a huge variety of other topics. It is an awesome day of professional development and you can see all of the presentations we have released, and see what the Conference is all about at Make sure you check it out soon. Thanks and let’s turn it back over to Cassie as she opens up the mailbag.

Cassie: Now it’s time to take a little dip into the mailbag and it’s going to be a little dip simply because I done talked too much y’all, so let me address this really great question I’ve recently got. I had just posted on my blog about a week ago a lesson based on an awesome artist, illustrator, designer, Jen Aranyi. She’s fabulous and a fun Instagram artist to follow, and my students recently used her as an inspiration to create a kind of mountainy landscape drawing. They absolutely loved this project. So I would strongly recommend you give it a shot. Your kiddos will love it.

I got a lot of questions about what kind of watercolor paint did my students use for this particular project? What’s my favorite brand of watercolor paint? Well, I had not placed my art supply order yet. I think it was due in July. I just finished it up last week. I hate ordering art supplies. You think it would be super fun. It’s the worst.

Anyway, my students for that particular project were using liquid watercolors which I’m fairly new to. Excuse me, one of my teacher buddies turned me on to it. And while I love liquid watercolors, I’m still a big fan of pan watercolors. It took me a long time to really enjoy those because there are a lot of, pardon my French, crapola pan watercolors out there.

My favorite is Crayola mixing colors. But if I were going to order them and I didn’t have any other pan watercolors to my name, I would not order the Crayola mixing colors set because in the set they have some weird colors. They have black which I never buy black watercolor paint. I just don’t. We never use it. Here’s why. Because the kids will end up painting everything black.

The thing I love about the Crayola mixing colors is you can pop the colors out. I immediately pop the black out and just put it in its own little bin that we’ve yet to use. But I pop up all of the colors out of that tray, and as I said, I wouldn’t order that tray. It also comes with the white which we’ve never used either.

I would order if I were you the following, red, and when I say order, it comes in like a pack of I think six little pans, correct me by double checking, and I would order red, red-orange, orange, yellow, green, blue, turquoise, blue-violet is beautiful, purple, and then I believe it’s either magenta, fuchsia, or red-violet, I can’t remember which is called. Those are what I order. The random colors, the red-orange, and the turquoise and the red violet and the … Blue-green, that was the one I’m missing, blue-green or turquoise, I can’t remember how they have it labeled, those are the beautiful colors, those are the ones that, I don’t know, the colors are just so rich for pan watercolor paint.

That’s what I would recommend ordering, and then just putting those, I always place them in rainbow order into my little watercolor paint tray thingy that you can pop the pans in and out of. The reason I put them in rainbow order is because a.) it’s beautiful, b.) then the kids can see rainbow order. But rainbow order is naturally laid out with warm colors and cold colors, and a lot of times I’ll have my students working with either all warm or all cold.

As far as liquid watercolor goes, I haven’t found a brand to be a bad brand. What I like is I’ve ordered Sax before, they’ve been great, Blick has been great, so you can’t … So far I haven’t noticed you can … You can’t go wrong with liquid watercolor paints. Anyway, I thought that would be a really fast, easy question for me to answer, and as you can see it was not. If you have a question for me, feel free to send it my way. You can find me at the Everyday Art Room at

Well y’all, whether you work a full week, part of a week, whatever it is, just know that we’re going to make it. We might come out of this week a little battered and bruised and maybe a tiny bit broken, but we will come out of it. And when we come back in 2019, ready to take on those kiddos, we’re going to come back bigger, badder, and stronger than before after a little bit of reflecting, resting, and rejuvenating. So cheers to y’all and have a super crazy, because let’s be honest that’s what it’s going to be, week.

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.