Cal Create Q and A


How should I budget for these classes?
Choose lessons that rely on disposable or recyclable materials and save your $ for what you cannot avoid obtaining by any other means. I will also buy materials, if it will save me a considerable amount of time or if it will keep kids from fighting. Some materials can be shared, and others should not. I go to the dollar store in Berkeley and SCRAP in San Francisco. I visit the garage sales I see on Nextdoor, and I use social media to ask my friends for donations. I plan most lessons around natural, freely available materials such as sea glass and eucalyptus seeds.

I want to reuse art supplies to make multiple projects and avoid waste. 
This noble goal is beyond the scope of this Q and A, but if you have already chosen the type of lesson you want to do I might be able to help you individually. In general, it is best to plan a lesson around a material that is plentiful, disposable and free, such as cardboard, plastic pieces, donated yarn, old books, etc.

How do you you plan meaningful lessons they can take something away from?
A lot of this is covered in Five Great Principles. But you can also involve the students’ cultures, if you feel confident and knowledgeable in them. Or, you can ask them for input on topics they care about (“What if we made a sculpture of Sonic the Hedgehog?” “What’s the deal with this neighborhood? How can we represent it?”). The use of exit slips is also tied to better planning because you learn more about your students and that info helps you make adjustments. The elements above, and giving them enough time to work on something, will ensure they will care more about what they make. If your students put it on display or take it home, you will have achieved your goal.

How much activity is realistic for one day?
This varies tremendously by age group, ability and familiarity with the demands of the lesson. But you can get ahead of it by observing your students, because your first teaching experiences with that group will show you what your students can do. To give yourself breathing room, choose activities that can be completed in different ways by different types of individuals, in flexible amounts of time. For example, a mosaic-making activity is an open activity because it is very adjustable. It may be done freeform or made to fit increasingly intricate patterns or shapes.

Some of my students finished early.
Adults who finished early can be asked to help clean up. Teens who finish early can get an art extension activity. Here are some tips for elementary level students who finish early. For middle school students, I like to bring different art-making books that I let them browse or use. Themed drawing instruction books (“Learn To Draw Manga”) are very popular. Or you can have a simple, ongoing project that they pick up if they finish early, for example, weavings or mosaics. For very young students, I try to avoid this as much as possible by organizing the lesson in stations. Scroll down for resources on how to do this.

I planned a lesson that was too demanding! What do I do?
Everyone plans lessons like that sometimes. Don’t panic. The key is to acknowledge the feelings this might generate. If working with adults or teens, be honest right away. Don’t let anyone struggle for longer than necessary. Lay out your plan B: “Uh folks, We have fifteen minutes left and I just realized I should have explained how to connect the wires to the armature. I am so sorry. Let’s take the rest of our time to go over this, and we’ll finish next time.”

If working with kids, stop the presses. If several are struggling because the activity is too hard, use a focusing tool to get their attention then redirect them to a different area. Then take the responsibility for how things are going, so that they don’t think the reason they can’t do it is that there is something wrong with them. Tell them you made a mistake, and that you are going to change things around so that they can finish what they are doing. Then give them their new instructions.

Classroom Management

How do you establish respect with adults? I don’t want to be seen as condescending or pedantic.
Most mature adults will understand that you might look young, but you have something to bring to the table. Most of them by now have done some wellness or physical therapy class, so you are not the first young person to teach them something.This excellent, short video explains what older adults need from you. Even if you yourself don’t feel like an expert, respect from adults comes when they see you are honest, on time, and well-prepared.  When you establish a track record of trying to meet their needs and of being approachable and friendly, they will tolerate an occasional mistake.

As for coming off as condescending or pedantic, the only way this could happen is if you talk your head off without listening to what they need. Give them an exit slip in which to ask questions or make comments. This will help you plan your time effectively and avoid the temptation to fill it with nervous talk. Finally, at your age, being honest about your own limits is really important. There will be things they might request that you won’t be able to deliver, and it is okay to let them know as soon as you realize this.

My students were *forced* to take my class. They seem very uninterested in art. Now what?
Art is only one of several other mandatory classes. If they complain about this, it is because they’re testing you and acting like it is *uncool* to take your class because of peer pressure. Most of this fades away once they start getting more familiar with you as a teacher. Try redirecting that type of energy. How can you do that? Start by ignoring the complaints. Focus on preparing an open lesson with plenty to do that leaves them creative choices. Organize it in small groups and pairs so that their non-compliance affects the group’s outcomes. If ignoring loud complaints only makes them louder, try a private one-on-one chat with the group’s influencer. Do not alienate them. Simply state how you are doing the best you can, and ask them how your class can be improved. If they don’t respond, don’t give them ultimatums. In private, give them the choice of doing what the class is doing or sitting there quietly. Don’t reward this behavior with alternate activities.

I am worried about handling students that get out of control. 
To answer this question I would need more specifics, but know that this is something that happens to all teachers at some time or another because of different reasons, and that most of it can be prevented through good planning. Maybe the lesson is too loosely structured and relies on routines that haven’t yet been established. Maybe there was some “down time,” i.e. time when students didn’t not know what to do next. Or maybe your students were doing something very loud and physical before your class and need time to transition. Students also get out of control when they sense that their teacher feels powerless and insecure. If this is you, I cannot stress how important it is make sure you have a solid, age appropriate lesson plan and to rehearse in front of a friend.

What should I do if lose control of my class because my kids lose interest?
Use a focusing tool to gain the group’s attention, then issue a simple directive (“I want everyone to come back to the rug/their tables”), followed by a short warm-up to change the energy in the room. For example,I begin a drawing and play a visual  “guess what” on dry erase board. I only accept answers from students who raise their hand and reward whomever guesses first. I do not spend time lecturing anyone on their behavior. Instead, I issue consequences because actions speak way louder than words. For example, I will go and talk to their next teacher to make sure that students who break, dirty or vandalize something have to return and fix it. Once you do that once and they miss football practice, they know you mean business.

Troublemakers. How do you get their attention and get them to stop troublemaking???
There are as many types of troublemakers as there are students, so your approach cannot be the same for everyone. Find out what they are getting out of pushing the boundaries. Is the class comedian developing a captive audience of approving peers? Send her out of your class for a few minutes. Is your insecure fourth grader causing a distraction to avoid having to draw? Take a deep breath and get him to open up, in private. Does your gifted student ignore the no cell phone policy? Immediately pull him aside give him one (and only one) warning. Once you’ve interrupted these troublemaking behaviors, address the issues in a more long-term way.

My kids don’t clean up after themselves.
I would first ask if you have clearly established your expectations. Did you spend five minutes discussing the sign that explain what “clean” is for this lesson? Did you do a role play to show students how to get the members of your small group to do complete their cleaning tasks? Have you assigned cleaning roles? Did you recognize (verbally and tangibly) those who have been cleaning? Does cleaning up on time carry some perks in your art class? Here are some cleanup ideas for elementary level students.

Young Children

What are some strategies to use with Kindergarteners or 1st graders? How can I prep to keep them engaged for 45 minutes?
Keep things simple! Rehearse the simplified verbs and nouns that you will need to use. Use a low voice and a focusing tool to gain their attention. Don’t lecture or talk for more than 2-3 minutes at a time or you’ll lose them. Use visuals to designate areas. This helps them navigate the room during art class.

Kinder and 1st grade teachers prep to keep things orderly during the lesson itself, and to focus time use on your lesson objective. For example, cutting something with scissors for a collage is going to take them forever. Ask them to rip pieces of paper with their hands instead. If you know that giving them a whole magazine could mesmerize them, give them a bag with 10-12 images to choose from. If you suspect your kindergarteners will spread glue all over their hands, give them glue in tiny cups.

How Do I Plan For Art Stations?

Stations serve to give students choices and freedom in the pace at which they choose to complete different projects or part of a project. Think about the maximum number of students at each station. Organize the lesson into 3-5 stations, one where you will sit doing direct instruction, another where your partner will sit also doing direct instruction, and other, independent stations. There could be a different art activity at each station or there can be parts of a common project in each station. For example, a papier-maché lesson could involve a paper ripping station, three pasting stations, and a drying station (with one or two blow-dryers).

Stations keep young students focused while taking advantage of the fact that elementary aged students move a lot. Instead of having to spend time having to keep them still, they get to circulate around the room and move at their own speed. One thing you will have to think through is a simple way to keep track of who has gone to what station. Also, how will students be able to tell that they have completed the task at each station. Some teachers stamp an “art passport,” others give a token.

This video made by a public school art teacher explains how art stations would work in middle school. One of the ideas I like is her use of an assessment sheet to teach students to keep track of their progress, and to think of the criteria by which they will be evaluated. In your case, your students might use such a slip to help them tell when they have done everything that is expected of them. Another valuable idea is all the ways in which she has helped students navigate the room during the busy time that is art.