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Due to popular demand, Tim is back this week with even more simple one-day lessons. Based on his ideas for the Art Olympics, he shares a number of individual and team challenges and lessons for when you need something new. Listen as he discusses collaborative drawing, paint mixing, and what you can create with a 3-pound ball of clay. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
So last week I put together an episode that was all about one-day lessons. Just simple ideas that can cover you when you’re out of ideas. When you’re having a difficult day, or just need something to fill a class period. And I had the feeling that was something that people needed, and I was right. People seemed to love that episode. And I received just a ton of emails asking for more ideas, more possibilities, more suggestions for when you have a day, or a class period, or a couple of classes that you just need to fill some time with. But you still want something valuable, something worthwhile. So I’m coming back today in this episode today with even more one-day ideas for you. And again, as I talked about a little bit last week, the goals for these lessons are to do something simple. Something fun that hopefully, like I said, is still worthwhile, still teaches your kids something.
And honestly, even if we don’t happen to reach those goals with all of these ideas, we can still create a fun class period. We can create a classroom where kids want to be. We can create an environment that kids want to be a part of. And honestly, that can be just as important for some of the students who walk through your door. All right. So a bunch of these ideas are going to come from something that I like to call the art Olympics. And the art Olympics originally started back when I had time to fill after AP students had already submitted their portfolios. And we were just looking for things to do for the three weeks that were left in school. There are only so many fun drawing prompts and alternative activities you can do. Only so many discussions you can have.
And so we are just looking for something else, something fun, and a bunch of random ideas kind of turned into the art Olympics. And so I think there’s an old article on the AOEU website in the archives from five or six years ago. If I can find that I will link to it, but these are all ideas that kind of came from that. They’re really enjoyable. And I think your kids will like them. Okay. And then I also have a few other ideas for some games that can work, if you think your kids might be into some games. So without further ado, here are even more one-day lessons.
All right. So I think the best place to start, like I said, with the Art Olympics is with the collaborative drawing. And for all of these events, if you feel like keeping track of scores or you feel like judging them, you can do that on your own. You can have some help. Kids who don’t want to participate could judge. If you have paras, or other teachers on planned periods that just want to come hang out and enjoy the time, feel free to rope them in as judges. Otherwise, you can just kind of run things on your own, or you can just do these things for fun. You know your kids, you know what works for them.
But circling back to the collaborative drawing idea. So generally I start out by giving kids just a huge piece of paper. I usually have those big rolls of paper. Do something that’s like three foot by five foot, just a huge sheet of paper, but you can do this any size. You can collaborate on any size paper, it really doesn’t matter. I like going big, because it’s a little bit more of a challenge for your kids and really sort of opens up the ideas of different materials that they may want to do.
Okay. But they get their paper, and then they also receive, each team, a sealed envelope. And in every envelope is a printout. An image of a random drawing, or painting, or photograph, from art history. And then basically the students, when you say, “Go”, will open up that image, see what they’re trying to recreate, and go to work on their large paper. And I let kids use whatever materials they think are going to work for them. Again, that’s just another problem they need to solve in their collaborative group. But they’re just trying to work together to recreate that artwork as accurately as possible. Whatever they find in the envelope, they have to redo to the best of their ability. And you can decide how much time you want to give them. If they’re working huge, then you can feel free to give them a little bit more time. If they’re working small, maybe it goes a little bit more quickly. Maybe it just depends on the images you choose to put in those envelopes. So it’s really up to you.
But, I like to judge these drawings. And just have the judge say, “How accurate is this? How close did it fit the original, and how well did they match what they were working with.” And just judge it out of 10 points, average of the scores and go from there. And like I said, even if you don’t want to judge, you just want to let kids draw and recreate, that’s a fun one to do anyway. So it’s really cool. It’s really enjoyable. The sealed envelope adds a little drama, sort of heightens the tension, and then kids can work quickly from there. And it’s usually pretty fun to get them involved with that.
Okay. Second idea is, I love to have students do blind drawing. Drawing where they cannot see what’s happening. So this is not like a blind contour drawing. It’s more of a descriptive collaborative drawing, all right? So maybe blind drawing is not the best name for it. I don’t know if I have anything better. Happy to take suggestions. But the idea is one team member is given an image. Again, it could be a famous art history work. It could be just a random image of whatever. But that first team member has the image in their hands and they have to describe it to their partner, or their other team member, who then has to draw the image.
So you have one person describing and one person drawing. And the first team member cannot look at the drawing that’s being created. And the second team member cannot look at the original image. So all of the information transferred has to be done through conversation. They can’t say, “Oh no, no, move that drawing down a little bit. You know, looking over their shoulder, add a little more shading there that doesn’t work.” They need to just describe what’s there. And that can be a little bit frustrating for students, both on the drawing end and on the describing end, but it’s a good thing to work through. And you’ll notice that kids get a little bit better at communicating. The more they sort of get into the feel of things.
It’s a tough situation to jump into right away. It’s very foreign to how we usually work. But once they realize, “Oh, this is what we’re doing.” Then they can get a little bit more into to it. They relax a little bit and descriptions get a little bit better. The person drawing can sometimes ask some good questions and it’s really enjoyable to kind of see what they come up with.
I like to limit this to shorter drawings, maybe five to 10 minutes. And then, the reveal of those is just spectacular. It’s hilarious. You know, kids are fake mad at each other. “Why didn’t you tell me about that? Why didn’t you describe it this way?” And it’s really enjoyable to see. Kids really seem to love doing that.
So again, if you have judges, okay, rank them from most accurate to least accurate, think about quality and just kind of award points accordingly. And I always have the rule that if either team member looks, if they peek at the other image, whether the person drawing looks at the original or whether the person describing looks at the drawing and then their team is automatically disqualified. So that’s generally the best way to keep them from cheating, but it’s kind of fun to have them facing each other, working without looking and just kind of see what they come up with for the blind drawing. Or if we have a better name, whatever we want to call that.
All right. Third idea is kind of similar to the challenges that I talked about last week, but we can call this the color mixing challenge. And I really enjoy this as a challenge for kids where they are attempting to mix and match colors. So what I’ll do is, beforehand, the morning of, the night before, whenever you have time, just mix up five random colors and paint them on a bunch of different cards. And so every team is going to get a card with five premixed colors on it. And then they also get a palette with red, yellow, blue, or cyan, magenta, yellow, depending on how you mix your colors in your room, along with some black and white. And then using only the colors on the palette, your teams have to mix paint to match each of the five colors that they were given, as closely as possible.
And the extra challenge that I like to throw into this is they have their palette, with the same amount of paint for everybody, and more paint cannot be put on the pallet. Okay. So whatever they start with, that’s what they have to use to mix all five of them. And it really helps them. It’s a good constraint to help them kind of limit their paint and think a little bit more closely about what they’re doing. So if you have a nice magenta color, and then a teal, and then maybe say a really dark brown, and whatever else. Just whatever you’d like to mix up that you think might be a good challenge for them. And then you can just, as they see those colors… So they get their cards with the five premixed ones that you give them, okay, you can see the wheels start to turn in their head. You can see them figuring out how they’re going to do that.
They start to talk through things and then they mix up, on a separate sheet of paper and say, “Oh, that needs a little bit more white.” Or, “Oh, that’s a little bit too intense. Put the complimentary in, tone it down a little bit.” And they can try and match that as closely as possible. Then when they think they have it, just paint right below on the original card and see how closely they have it. And again, you can limit them to 10 minutes is usually enough for this one to mix those five colors. And then if you are judging, you can award points based on the accuracy of the hue, how well you match the value, how well they match the intensity, whatever the case may be. But it’s a really good challenge. It’s really fun for them to try that out. So that’s always a good one that I like to do where they are doing the color mixing challenge.
All right, the next set of events are maybe less art-related and more just for fun. And you can decide whether this actually works for you. If you have the space for it. If you want your kids doing these things. So that is my disclaimer there. Only do these if you think they work for you, and if you think they work for your kids. So I’ll go through them quickly.
First one is the paintbrush throw for accuracy. I love this one, where everybody will pick three of their favorite brushes from the art room. And then we usually go outside. We have targets placed all over the field, and then kids have to throw their three paint brushes at the different targets. And the closer they get to the center of the target, the more points they get. And you can compete, like closest from this team gets two points, next closest gets one, et cetera, et cetera. However you want to do it. Basically, we’re just throwing paint brushes around, trying to hit targets, which is a blast.
Okay. And its companion event is the paintbrush throw for distance. Again, those same three brushes. And then you just throw them as far as you possibly can. Again, this doesn’t work great if you’re indoors, but if you have an outdoor space, it’s a lot of fun. But basically kids throw their three brushes. The one that goes furthest is counted as their best throw. The top throw between everybody gets 10 points. Second place is nine. Third place is eight, on down. And yeah, you can add those to your team’s score if you have your teams going up.
Okay. And then the third part of that event is the palette toss. I just take those little plastic palettes and give everybody two or three chances to throw that palette, Frisbee style, as far as you possibly can. Okay. You can use that same scoring system where you can mark the best throw. That gets 10 points. The second best throw gets nine, on down. I did, one year, have a bunch of palettes crack when we were doing this. So just a warning there. Usually it was not a problem, but one year we lost like four of them, which, when you don’t have much of a budget, that can be kind of an issue. So look out for that. That’s your fair warning with that one, all right?
Swinging back around to some art making, with another challenge. And then we’ll go back to some ridiculous stuff that’s just there for fun. But I also like to have a wheel throwing challenge. And basically I will divide it up. And each participant, whoever wants to throw on the wheel, they receive three pounds of clay. And they can take as much time as they need to wedge it, to prep all their supplies, to do whatever they need to do to get ready. And then as soon as that three pound ball of clay touches the wheel, they have five minutes to throw the tallest, widest vessel possible. And we basically just measure by volume, okay. Measure the width, measure the height, and multiply those together to see who creates the piece with the most volume. And that’s a fun one, because there’s a lot of strategy involved. Like, do you keep pushing and risk it collapsing when it’s getting too thin? Do you just throw something really tall and call it good? Do you stop in the middle, just so it doesn’t collapse, take those sure points?
A lot of strategy goes into to that one. Just talking through exactly what you’re going to do for your team. And again, just five minutes, and see what they can come up with. It’s pressure-filled, but it’s a lot of fun. And if you want to throw in another challenge, you’ve probably seen things like this. Blindfold your kids, see what they can throw if they are not looking at their piece. You can have kids combine, and throw as a team, which can be fun. It can be a little bit of a challenge, but it’s really enjoyable. Forces kids to communicate a lot. And if you want to get real weird, you can have kids throw just using their feet. Not everybody’s into that, but it is enjoyable. It’s kind of a fun challenge. It’s a super weird feeling on your feet. But again, you can judge whether that’s something that’s good for your classroom or not.
Okay. And then a couple other just ridiculous ceramic ones. I always ended up, especially with my Intro to Art kids, with a bunch of leftover ceramics pieces at the end of the year that they didn’t want, or never took home. And so we have two more events that we do with those. One of them is ceramic shuffle board, where you have all of the unwanted pieces. Have kids pick one, and then you just slide it across the art room floor at different targets that you have laid out. So, big targets that are close to you are just worth a point. Middle size, middle range are worth five, and then small targets, far away, are worth 10 points. Hey, but anyway, you can just slide those along the art room floor, try and hit your targets, get points for hitting your targets. And that’s always enjoyable. And again, I didn’t say all of these were educational. Sometimes they are just fun.
The other one that goes along with that is the ceramic shot put, where you have any sort of just small, hopefully spherical-shaped piece. Go back outside with those, learn a little bit about shot put technique. And then get out and see how far you can shot put those ceramics into whatever random field may be around you. So that’s another fun one. You can judge distance, and it’s always a good, enjoyable way to use up those extra ceramic pieces that you didn’t know what you were going to do with.
All right. Two last ideas, and then we will wrap things up here. First one is going to be an art history puzzle. If you are anything like me, you still have a million laminated reproductions of famous artworks that A, you never use, and B, you have no idea what to do with. And so what I like to do for the speed puzzle is to chop it up with the paper cutter into however many pieces you want. Maybe it’s just 12 and you keep it simple. Maybe it’s 30 and you really want it to be a little bit more intricate. And you have kids have that stack of pieces they have to put it together. Just like a puzzle, and they are timed. So you just give them all of the pieces they need. And they work as a team to put that back together, recreate that image, put that laminated reproduction back together.
If you want to give them a copy of the original to look at, as they’re putting together the puzzle, great, go for it. If you want to give them a little bit of an extra challenge, don’t give them to them. Let them figure it out exactly what it’s supposed to look like. And then if you keep track of the fastest times, you can compete team by team, or even class by class. And it’s really, really enjoyable. That’s kind of a fun one to do.
And then, really simple, but for some reason high school kids still get into tic-tac-toe. And so you can play this on your board. You can do this wherever. Just make them answer an art history question first, amongst their teams. And then if they get that right, they can put down their X or their O, and they compete against another team, just going back and forth with questions. When they answer them right, they can place it on the tic-tac-toe board. It’s very simple, but it’s a great way to review. It’s a great way to fill some time and something that is super enjoyable for them as well.
So hopefully some of those ideas are going to be worthwhile for you. So anyway, there’s a bunch more simple one-day ideas. I hope it’s helpful for you. Like I said, popular demand. People wanted more, so we’re trying to fill that void. And hopefully those are some things that you can use sometime toward the end of the year, this year, or just whenever you need a quick break. A quick reprieve from the grind of teaching. And like we talked about last week, you never need to feel guilty about doing a one-day lesson, or just taking a day and doing something fun. Kids are still… If they’re engaged with what you’re doing, then that’s all you need.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn, to create. And if you’re giving them something fun on top of that, then you’re doing your job as a teacher. So don’t feel bad about that. If you need a one-day lesson, take a one-day lesson. If you need five one-day lessons, do those five. And like I said, almost all of these ideas we’ve talked about over these past two weeks have some learning value. Okay, ceramic shot put, maybe not, but it’s still enjoyable. And like I said, you’re giving kids an environment they want to come to. A classroom they want to be in. And that’s very, very important for a lot of our kids. So please don’t hesitate. If you feel like you need a one-day lesson, do that one-day lesson. It’s going to be good for you. It’s going to be good for your kids. And everybody’s going to enjoy what you’re doing.
Art Ed Radio was produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Now I said last week that our next episode was going to be about what new teachers need to know about organization. Quick, quick, substitute with more one day lessons. But I promise, the next one will be about organization and what new teachers need to know. So if you have advice for new teachers, we would love to hear that. If you are a new teacher, we would love to hear your questions. email@example.com, or on Twitter, @TimBogatz. Thank you for those. And we will talk to you next 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.