Art Survival Tips for the Elementary Classroom
Put newspapers under easels to catch paint drips. Then, at the end of each session, bundle up the paper with paint drips and throw it away. Replace paper immediately, so it's there when you need it.
Wash easel brushes every other day. Then thoroughly wash brushes on Friday, and line them up on the counter to dry over the weekend.
Cover paint containers at the easel at day's end to keep paint from getting too thick. (Some paint comes in plastic containers with covers.)
Use men's old, cotton, long-sleeved shirts for smocks. Roll up or cut off the sleeves so the children's arms are covered. Have children put them on backwards to cover their entire front. A friend can button the top two buttons for them. (Teach children to help each other with the buttoning.)
Have left-handed scissors for those with left-hand preference.
Keep a box for paper scraps. It can be covered with construction paper scraps and labeled Art Scrap Box. Rather than throwing paper away, use it for projects (for details when making construction paper puppets, for projects, and so on).
When the scrap box is overflowing, have each student take a handful and use it to make a three-dimensional scrap design on a 9 x 12 piece of construction paper. Another idea for an overflowing scrap box is to have students make paper mosaics. They can tear pieces of paper no larger than their thumbnail and outline an object (e.g., dog, TV set, or flower). Some children may have time to fill it in with more torn paper. Remind them to keep gluing as they go along, and not to wait until the end.
When plastic glue tops won't budge, soak them overnight in warm water.
Foster respect for tools and regard for everyone's safety: only the teacher should handle the paper cutter.
When demonstrating how to draw something, take your model and put it out of sight otherwise, children will try to make theirs look just like yours.
When making colored chalk drawings, use a sponge to wet the paper first. This eliminates a lot of chalk dust and mess. The teacher can keep circulating around the room to keep wetting the paper. The results will resemble a painting.
Decide ahead of time where you want children to store their art work because it may be wet when they finish. Some suggested places are the countertop or on the floor along the edge of the wall.
Continually look in teacher magazines for new art ideas.
Don't ever try anything for the first time with the students without having tried it yourself; otherwise, you can't help them.
When backgrounds present a problem for new painters, try having them paint the background first. Then, the next day, when the background is dry, students can paint objects over the background.
When painting a mural, have students draw their object on with chalk (not pencil) before they paint it. Chalk allows them more freedom.
Elementary students draw what they know. For example, if a car has four wheels, they will put four wheels on their drawing even though it may look as if two of them are sticking out of the roof. This is a normal stage of art development, and it's charming, so enjoy it while it lasts.
If a child seems to be stuck drawing the same thing over and over and over again, try a different medium, such as clay, so the child can model it and rethink the shape.
NEVER ask, What is it? Instead say, Tell me something about your painting, or Hmmm, that's an interesting shape, or That's a pretty shade of purple, isn't it?
Foster the exuberance of art expression from the children, nurture their attempts, and display their art.
Excerpted from Kindergarten Teacher's Survival Guide.
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