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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.”