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Inspire Your Little Picassos With These Art Time Tips for Your Classroom

Let’s get creative! Most of you know me as an ELA and math teacher for the primary grades, but did you know I also teach art once a week? Jill of all trades over here! Planning creative and engaging art projects for students can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re limited to just one hour per week like I am. All the prep time, the materials to gather, the mess… sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! Let me help you out with some of my favorite tips and tricks to teaching art.

Tip #1: Don’t play it safe—choose projects that will challenge the kids and you!

My goal with each art lesson is to choose something that will challenge everyone. Anyone can print off a coloring sheet, but it takes some real finesse to lead a class of primary students through a multi-step art project. Sure, I experience my fair share of frustrations when I try something new and somewhat complex, but I also have loads of fun! And so do my students, of course! 🙂

Tip #2: Use Pinterest for inspiration, and then put your own spin on it!

I’ll be honest: most of my ideas come from Pinterest. Sometimes I’ll use an idea as is, but usually, I combine a few different ideas into one. For example, I found a cute penguin craft, which would have been just fine as a standalone project. I added an extra layer of creativity by having students design a colorful winter background with tissue paper. 

Tip #3: Keep them guessing!

This is one of my favorite strategies for teaching art! I like to keep my students’ curiosity piqued by revealing the project step-by-step. They won’t know what the end result should be until the very end! It’s fun to hear their guesses as we go. I also find that it helps some kids lean into their creativity more. Without an end product in mind, they can create something that is truly their own!

Tip #4: Borrow extra time for extended projects!

What if you need more time for a longer art project? An hour of art time absolutely flies by! I have a couple of solutions to this.

  • Have students complete the first half of the project during week one, then return to it the following week. This can be great if you have a project that needs time to dry, like one using glue and/or paint.
  • Borrow an hour from next week. When I want kids to work on art for two solid hours, I will plan that time in my schedule for one day, and then next week we’ll skip art time.

Tip #5: Build your supply stash!

Be prepared for all sorts of quick or impromptu art projects with these supplies:

  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Safety scissors
  • Markers
  • Washable paint
  • Rulers
  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Yarn

And don’t forget to use found items, aka scraps and other free stuff! Some items you should consider collecting:

  • Tissue paper or gift wrap leftovers from birthdays or holidays
  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Old magazines or newspapers
  • Egg cartons
  • Jars and plastic bottles
  • Cardboard boxes

If you don’t have much of a budget, try reaching out to local businesses or your students’ parents for donations. Having a good stash of art supplies on hand can really cut down on prep time for you.

A few fun art ideas for your primary students:

  1. Make a colorful mosaic with scraps of construction paper. Students can begin with a particular shape, like a heart, and fill it in to make a unique design.
  2. Name art. Print out each student’s name in large block letters and have them color in each letter with a different pattern.
  3. Pastel and watercolor art. Have students draw lines with pastels or wax crayons, then fill in using watercolors. We’ve made sunsets and winter scenes using this method, and they always turn out great!

Learn about artists around the world!

Last year, we learned about artists like Ted Harrison and Keith Haring. My students LOVED recreating their art. They felt like real artists! 😉

For more ideas, check out my art highlights on Instagram @allstudentscanshine!

Do you have any favorite art projects? Drop your ideas in the comments!

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