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Everyday Art Room debuts with host Cassie Stephens welcoming you into the world of elementary art teaching. She tackles the topic of establishing routines, and why they are so important for a successful school year. Listen as she talks about why you need to pay attention to your own setup, situation and students (3:30), and the magic that happens when your routines are running well (13:30). Cassie opens up the mailbag for listener questions (15:45) and closes the show with some great advice for the beginning of the school year. Full episode transcript below.
You know they say that wisdom comes with experience, but I’ve always been one to kind of test a good theory so let me share with you something that I did not too long ago that definitely showed that I am not wise beyond my art teachering years. It was the first day of Kindergarten. I got the great idea that on the very first day of art, with five year olds, we should paint. I know. You already know where this is going. Sadly, I didn’t own that crystal ball, so let me paint the picture for you. All of my students were starting to paint and it was going pretty well. Shockingly well. I should have taken that as a sign. All of a sudden, across the room, I hear one of my sweet students say, “Oh, oh. I got paint on me. I got paint on me.”
I can hear the panic tone in her voice. I went over as a good art teacher does, and I said the words that we all say, “It’s art class. It’s okay. You’re supposed to get a little bit messy.” I turned my back for just a second, and all of y’all know that’s all it takes especially with Kindergarten painting on the first day of school. In that moment I hear the entire class erupt in this sound, “Oh no.” When I turn around my sweet little friend is thrilled that she no longer has paint on her. She also is no longer wearing her top. That’s right. She’s topless.
Hopping up and down saying, “I’m clean. I’m clean now.” It’s before I can do or say anything else, I hear a tiny little voice from across the room that says, “I can see her niblets.” Ooh y’all. You would think wisdom of art teachering would have told me not to bust out those paints with Kindergarten on the first day of school, but you know what, that’s our reality. This is every day art room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.
Now what my nearly 20 years of art teachering should have told me is that on those first days, weeks, month of school, you need to really be working on establishing your art room routines, so today I thought I would share with you my eight art room routines for a super successful school year. These are my eight art room routines. This is what works best for me. I’m going to share those with you, but you need to keep an open mind and think about what works best for you. Think about it like this: I like to use the three s’s. Does this work best for my setup? Think about your classroom if you have one. Think about your cart if you’re using one. Think about the school or schools that you have to travel to. Is this best for my situation? My demographics, my school demographics. Is this the best thing for my students.
I’m going to share with you my eight art room routines. What I have found to work best for my set up, situation, and students. Keep an open mind, many of these might work for you but many of them might not. For that reason, you need to start by putting yourself in your students shoes. When I’m establishing my eight art room routines, I always do this every single year. I rework it, rethink it, and I put myself in my students shoes. The first thing, the first routine I establish with my students is how do I want my students to begin art? Think about it, do you go to your students classrooms? Do your students get dropped off by a classroom teacher? Do they walk themselves down independently as my students do? If that’s the case, how do you want them to approach art class? Because that is what’s going to set the tone for the rest of the art class.
My students know that because we’ve established a routine, and we’re going to reestablish it on that very first day and weeks of school, that I have a line of tape right outside my door. That line of tape is where they stand and wait to enter quietly. That’s routine number one. Think about how you want your students to approach art class. That will really set the tone. Thing number two is making an entrance. How do you want your students to enter your art room? Now I know that this seems really nit picky, but once again, this really sets the tone. Let me tell you why I’ve really had to think hard about how my students made an entrance. I used to hold the door open and my students would walk past me as they enter the art room. As they did it was like a barrage of questions. What are we doing today. I like your shoes. Did you get your haircut? Somethings different about you. By the time my students got into my art room and settled, I’d answered at least a dozen questions, and we already lost several minutes of art time.
Think about how you want them to walk in your room. Here’s what I do. Here’s what works for me. Before my students can even raise their hand or ask me what are we doing in art today, I greet them at the door with a, “Hello my most amazing artists.” They know to all respond, “Hello my most amazing art teacher.” Trust me that never gets old. I say to them, “How are you today,” and they say, “Ready to create.” This is our routine that we go through every single time. Not only does it set a really happy and excited tone, but it also gets the chit chat out of the way. They file in my room and then we can dive right in. Let’s talk about think number three.
When my students come into my room they do not go straight to desks or tables. Here’s why. I learned from experience that if my students go straight to tables and sit down, whatever is on that table becomes fair game and it becomes a battle of the stop quick notes. They always win. Trust me. I usually just end up losing my patience. For that reason, we have, some people call it circle time. I say, take a seat on the floor. I don’t have a fancy rug. I just have lines of tape on the floor. These lines of tape show my students exactly where to sit as far as creating nice straight rows. They know to go all the way down to the end of the row leaving no space in between you and your neighbors. That way we can all file in quickly and quietly to dive into circle time. In that time we talk about what we’re going to be learning, creating, doing in art class that day.
The next transition in routine, and this one is a real big one, the next routine is the gathering of supplies. Oh boy. I don’t think classroom teachers will ever understand just how much work we put into preparing, passing out, and getting students to gather up those supplies. Really establish that routine because it’s a big one. My students in my room, this is what works for my set up situation and students, my students know to go shopping at “a store”. I have a long cafeteria style table. I have it divided into sections by grade level with just a piece of tape right down the center of the table to establish that this is the first grader supply area, second, third and fourth. My students, once they’re given their “shopping supply list”, which is basically just me telling them what to pick up at the store, they know to go shopping at the store. Many supplies are already kept on the tables.
Things that we would need every day. Glue, pencils, scissors. That kind of thing, but the thing that’s specific to their art project, my students know their routing is to go collect those things at the store. Now, when my students go to their seats to start creating, I do have a seating chart. I believe firmly in a seating chart and here’s why. It’ll really help you number 1) learn your students names. One of the ways that I establish my seating chart is I think hard about my students. I’ve taught my students for many years and I know most of them very, very well. I know that if I pair my students up correctly that they are going to have a really successful art class. I use a lot of peer tutoring in my room, and it’s great to see kids who excel in some areas help their friends who might not, because then the roles are often switched. I have noticed that some of those kids who are great at weaving, might not be so great at drawing. They can offer help to those who need it.
It’s wonderful to see the kids working together. Not just sitting and hanging out with their buddies. That is why I always have a seating chart. Another great thing is is that if you want to offer an incentive to your students, offer a party or a celebration for good behavior, allowing days where they’re free to sit wherever they like with their friends, that’s a great thing too. Another routine is to establish where your students sit. Now it comes time for creating. Finally. It always seems like there’s just not enough time for that. If you’ve established your routines firmly, then your creating time is going to go so stinking well. You do need to talk to your students, as you guys know, about noise level. About movement within the art room. How much movement do you want them to have. Do they need to constantly get up and get supplies, or will you have somebody who’s in charge of gathering supplies for them.
Not only that, but how are your students going to ask for your help. I have a rule that my students are not allowed to get out of their seat, come up to me with big old painted hands, and tap me on my arm. That’s like my number one routine. We don’t need to be touching the Miss Stephens. My students know they stay in their seat and they raise their hand. These are some things that you might think gosh my students should already know that. Remember, these are routines that you need to establish. Assume that they don’t know these things. The most important routine is clean up. Whoo that can make or break an art class experience. Think about how you want to signal to your students that it’s clean up time. How do you want them to go about cleaning up. Will there be certain people who have certain clean up jobs. Will they each be responsible for cleaning up their own individual area.
These are routines that you need to establish so that clean up time does not become mass chaos. Finally, our last routine to establish is how you want to close your art class. How do you want to end an art experience with your students. For me this is just as important as starting your art class. Remember that really positive and uplifting greeting I gave my students at the beginning of class, I want them to leave with that really great and happy feeling. We do this in a couple of ways just depending on time. One closing activity that we do is a game called the smartest artist. In this game I review simple things that my students have learned. How to mix the color green, what are supplies did we use today, and with that I can establish where my students are as far as what they’ve learned during that particular art class.
It’s the smartest artist. It’s a super fun game, but if we’ve run out of time, one simple thing I like to leave my students with is this: I’ve shown my students how to sign I love you. As they’re leaving my room, that’s what we do. I love my students. I love creating with them, and I want them to leave my room with that warm, fuzzy feeling. Those are my eight routines. That is a lot to go through during your first days and weeks of art class. Don’t expect them to get these eight routines right away. It’s going to take a lot of rehearsing and reviewing, and going over it, over it, over them again until one day, magically it’s working. You might be thinking, how am I going to establish all of these routines in a matter of a few art classes.
You can go about this a couple of ways. One of my favorite ways to share with my students my expectations and my routines is to do it in video form. Think about a clever way where you can create a video that your students can watch that’ll show them just how to gather up supplies, or how to walk in the art room. An idea that I did last year, was I brought in my specials team to act those things out with me. My students absolutely loved seeing their other teachers cut up just as much as their art teacher in this video and they really learned a lot. Even having the students stand up and act out different routines or situations will really help them to understand what you’re expecting from them. If only I had really thought that through on that very first day of Kindergarten with painting, topless. But I digress.
Thanks guys for letting me share with you my eight art room routines for a super successful school year.
Tim Bogatz: Hello this is Tim Bogatz, host of Art Ed Radio. We hope you’re enjoying the debut episode of everyday art room with Cassie Stephens. New episodes will be arriving every Thursday, so make sure you subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to contact Cassie or submit a question for the mailbag, you can email your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, The Art of Ed is focusing on back to school week. All of next week and throughout the month of August, check out the site for podcasts, videos, articles, resources and so much more that will help you start your year off as strong as possible. You can find it all at theartofed.com. Now, let’s get you back to Cassie as she opens up the mailbag.
Cassie Stephens: Now it’s time to dip into the mailbag. My first question is: Do your students wear aprons? Well that would’ve come in pretty handy with Kindergarten and painting. If so, what kind? Once again, you got to think about your set up, your situation, and your students. Thinking about those things, I have tried every single apron with my students under the sun. We’ve tried t shirts, and button down shirts, we’ve done the plastic pull em over your head aprons, the ones that go all the way down to your wrists that make the kids all hot and sweaty. What we are currently using, I think we’re going to stick with, are canvas kid sized aprons. It’s funny. I actually bought these on accident thinking they were full size aprons that I was going to tie dye for a workshop, but when I got them and noticed that they were miniature sized, I decided to take them to school.
The kids really love these aprons because they look like little miniature bonafide artists when wearing them. I keep my aprons on hooks over in our painting area. My students who are in kindergarten through second grade, they don’t have an option of whether or not they can or cannot wear an apron. It’s mandatory if we’re getting messy. My older students, it’s paint at your own risk. You can wear one if you like, but you’re old enough to make that choice. When my students put their aprons on, they simply pull them over their head, bring the strings that are in the back around to their front by their belly button and tie. If they don’t know how to tie, they just phone a friend. They really love wearing these aprons, and it has really made it so a lot of wardrobes are saved. It also helps if you use paint that is water soluble so as not to damage your students clothing.
My next question is kind of along the same line. It’s this: How do your clothes not get messy. You are always dressed up to teach art. Friend, if you could see me close up you would notice that my clothes are absolutely covered in a rainbow of paint, and clay, and glue, and some other mysterious items that I can’t quite identify. One way that I keep my clothing from getting too messy is I wear an apron most of the time as well. I also purchase the grand bulk of my clothing from thrift stores. This makes it so if I do damage my clothes in some way, it isn’t a financial strain. I can simply renovate that clothing, up cycle it somehow, or give it back to the thrift store. Here you are, a masterpiece splatted in paint. Enjoy. That’s one way that I manage to salvage my wardrobe.
It has been so much fun talking with you guys today about the eight art room routines for a super successful school year. Remember, when you’re thinking through your eight art room routines, consider the three S’s. What works best for your set up, your situation, and your students. With that in mind, plan through your eight art room routines. Number one, how do you want your students to have art. Will they be coming to you, will you be going to them? How is it going to look. Number two, how will your students make an entrance. Will you greet them, will they greet you, what’s the plan here? Number three, do your students, when they walk in, will they be sitting on the floor, and if so what will that look like? Will they be going to their seats.
Number four, how will your students gather their supplies? Will a table captain do it, will they do it independently? Next up, number five, seating. Will your students have specific places to sit or will they get to choose where they want to sit? Number six, what is your creativity time going to look like and if your students need help, how are they going to ask you or appear? Number seven, clean up. That’s the one routine we really need to establish so make sure you think that one through, and also that’s the one you’re going to have to review over and again with your kids. The last one is closing. How do you want to end your art class?
Thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve had the best time chatting with you. This is Everyday Art Room. I’m Cassie Stephens.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.