Students finished creating a name design for their folder. I laminated each one and then attached it to the front of the folder and labeled the top right corner with a colored piece of tape (to show what table they sit at) and their class.

I give each table a folder of idea pages of different fonts to use as they work.



Tonight I had a chance to stop by and see the 5th-8th grade art show at Upper Devo. I miss seeing the older kids and was glad I got to see some of their artwork on display. I also loved some of the presentation ideas–like this table of books that were used to teach some of the lessons on display–what a great idea!


I often teach multi-week projects, so after a several weeks, students are usually at different stages of completion. I sort finished work as students complete it, and then when a projects is about to wind down I make time for a “finish up day.” I have been thinking of ways to make this day a little more fun and memorable. I have seen this ketchup bottle idea posed on Pinterest and various blogs, so decided to make my own ketchup “catch up” bottle. (I mostly used this image and this image for inspiration.) I had recently taught a few one day structure/drawing lessons to my kindergarten students, so on day three, students had time to focus on finishing up their two drawing assignments and any other unfinished work they had from the year. Students who were done with all of their assignments got to work independently in their sketchbooks. I wasn’t sure if my 5 and 6 year olds were going to get the joke, but a lot of them thought it was funny. 🙂

How do you incorporate playfulness into your teaching?


The week before vacation and all through my class, students… have been making Artist Trading Cards!

The week before vacation is usually unpredictable. Some students go on vacation early, or, during this time of year, students are often absent because they’re sick. Because of this, I put most projects on “hold” and started calling this week “ATC week.” (Kindergartners and first graders worked on completing unfinished work so that they can have more 1:1 help and so that we can start new projects when we get back from the break. When kindergartners and 1st graders were finished with all their unfinished work, they had the option of drawing in their sketchbook, or making a “free choice” collage or painting.)

When my second, third and fourth graders came to class, I told them the plan and showed them my ATC Idea Binder. It has samples of cards organized by media–drawing, collage, painting and mixed-media. We spent five minutes looking through the binder and discussing, “What makes a good ATC?”

Then students got to choose where to sit based on media. I had students “vote” what material they were most interested in using (by raising their hand) and then set up the stations based on popularity. In some classes, drawing was most popular, in others collage or painting was more popular, and in some it was split pretty evenly.

Students enjoyed the freedom of choosing their seats and materials, moving from station to station, and working with other students in the class. It was a great way to transition into break and I’m so proud with the ownership students took over coming up with and implementing their own ideas. Check out some of the results…

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My first day assignment is pretty simple, but I love it because it helps me learn (and remember) students’ names, which is crucial for building relationships.

The lesson also gives me a general idea of my students’ drawing skills and creativity. With my K students, I wrote their name in block letters ahead of time and they colored them in. As students get older, I add more challenges–1st graders learn to write their own name in block or bubble letters, 2nd graders “make it artistic”, and 3rd and 4th graders are encouraged to design their own font and include an image of something they like.


My first year of teaching, I had each student make a sketchbook. Throughout the year, students used it to sketch, take notes, or draw in if they finished a project early. I love the idea of a sketchbook, but because I only see students once a week, I found it difficult to teach students how to use the sketchbook the way I wanted to. Last year I had all of my students make a folder to keep their smaller projects and in-process work in. I’m doing the same thing this year. The first lesson I do with students is about fonts and each student creates a name design on the cover of their folder. I give each student an assigned seat on the first day of class, and as they work, I label each folder with a piece of colored masking tape that matches the table they sit at.The kindergarteners focus on writing their name legibly and tracing their letters with Sharpie.

The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders focused on designing their names using bubble or block letters.

I also tape a small pocket on the inside of the folder for students to keep scrap paper when they do collages.


At each table, there’s a folder of “Reference Images” that students can look at for ideas. For this lesson, I made photocopies of 8 different fonts that they could reference when designing their name.

The second lesson I did with the younger students was one explaining the artistic Habits of Mind. After showing students a slideshow that explains each habit, I had them assess the habits they already do well and the habits they want to improve. I stapled this into the back of their folder. (We’ll revisit it throughout the year.)


The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders have slightly different folders. On the first two days of art, they also created a name design for their folder. Their design had to meet three criteria: 1. Name written legibly. 2. Interesting font (bubble letters, block letters, graffiti, hand drawn…) 3. Image(s) that represent you. On the second day, I started class by leading a 5-minute “Quick Crit” of their in-process work. When they were done, I laminated their designs and they taped them to the front of the folder. On the inside of the folder, students store work that is “in-process” or “done.”


I am thrilled to have my own classroom this year! I’ve spent the past two weeks cleaning and organizing the space and I’m really happy with the results. It’s not completely finished yet, but I realized that I like being able to leave some empty space open for a little while before I decide how I want to use it. I also know that some things will change once my classes start to get messier.


Check out some more pictures of my room…


Plants: I bought two plants at a local gardening store, a Croton Plant (also called Joseph’s Coat) and a Dracaena Reflexa Plant (also called Song of India). The Croton originally came in one pot, so I split it into three smaller pots to give it more space to grow… and because I wanted a way to have more plants on a budget. 😉 Both of these plans are fairly low-maintnace and could be interesting to use for an observational drawing assignment.

Quotes: I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to graphically-designed inspirational quotes. I printed out a few of them and hung them around the room along with some famous art prints.

: I don’t have a lot of free wall space, so I use a standing desk. I keep large visuals in the shelves.


Prep Table: I keep the current materials/reference images I need for the lessons I’m teaching each week on this table.


Rug Area: Another Pinterest find, I got the instructions for creating my “rug spots” here. I used spray paint that I bought at a local hardware store. It was cheap and super easy to use.



Tables & Supply Bins: Each table is marked with a colored piece of paper. I used a die cut machine to cut out ovals from a 9″x12″ piece of paper and then taped the ovals onto my supply bins. When students clean up, they return the supplies to the bin and then place the bin on the matching oval.IMG_9647

Star Table: I use this table to set out some of the materials for the lesson I am teaching (usually the paper). I also created this table as a place to send kids who need to work independently.


I also posted “Take a Break” instructions near this table.


Cabinets: I have a bunch of small cabinets along the walls of my room. I labeled each one with a tiny sign so that I remember what’s in them.


I also have three tall cabinets in my room. I use one for storing paper, one for student supplies, and one for student work.


This is the inside of my paper closet. I keep larger paper in the cabinet and have a separate spot for students to access pre-cut paper.

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On the second day of art, my fourth grade students who finished designing their folder had the option of choosing an object from the supply cabinet and drawing it. I then laminated the drawings and taped them to the closet so that you can “see” what’s inside the closet.


The shelves in the student work closet are labeled with binder clips and box tops that correspond to each class I teach. I got this helpful idea after seeing this BuzzFeed article.


Seating Charts: I gave students assigned seats on the first day of art. My seating charts are color coded by grade level and match the binder clips and box tops in the student work cabinet.


Mixed-Media Shelves: These shelves are where I store my recycled materials. I can’t wait to use a lot of these with my 4th graders when I teach them about inventions!


Sinks: I labeled my two sinks (the colors around the letters show kids which tables use those sinks) and then decorated them with rainbow fish made by my kindergarteners. This year, only 1/2 of the K classes came on the first day of school, and the other half came on the second day. (Then they all started a full today together the following week.) Because I had smaller groups of kindergartners on the first two days, I did a collaborative printing project. First I read the book Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister and demonstrated how to make a fish print using a rubber mold. Then I split the class into pairs, and students took turns painting, printing, and decorating their fish with metallic scales.


Voice Levels: I came across this voice level chart here. I renamed some of the levels and combined the loudest level into one category. A normal art class should be around level 2. If it gets too loud, I point to the chart, tell them where they are, and remind them where they should be.


Clean Up Jobs: Each table has four chairs at it. During clean up time, students choose a job from the chart and do it. If a table has less students or someone is absent, table mates are expected to take on another job or work collaboratively to make sure all jobs get done.