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What to do on the First Day of Elementary Art Class.

Updated: Apr 11

The first days of school are always hectic and stressful. If this is your first year teaching elementary art it probably feels downright overwhelming. For me it is about getting to know my students, getting them comfortable with me, introducing rules, and giving them a quick drawing activity. I do it the same every year and it works great for me. I have 30-40 minute classes. I move very quickly through the following activities. I also have these steps outlined on the board, so that I don't forget anything.

  1. I greet my students at door and direct them to the rug. Even the older ones. (Grades 4-6 will only stay at the rug until I put them in their assigned seats, I put them in their assigned seats first.)

  2. Once I get grades k-3 on the rug I introduce myself. (This year I went to the kinder classes BEFORE they came to art to introduce myself, in hopes of making them more comfortable being left with me, a new stranger in a strange, but colorful new room.)

  3. I show the kids a large paintbrush called "Rusty Brush" and tell them while they are holding it they can tell me their name and one thing about themselves, then pass it on. I show them how by telling them my name again and one thing about me, then I pass it to the first student.

  4. After introductions I go over the rules. I have my rules painted on a canvas and hanging on the wall. I ask the kids to point to it, I say the number and they read it out loud. Grades k-1 can't read well yet, so I read it to them. Make this quick, they've heard rules in all their classes and you can go over specifics on an as needed basis later.

  5. I go over the art class "report card." This is a sheet of paper where they can earn 5 stars and it goes back to their teacher at the end of class. It has my expectations written on it (enter quietly, low noise level, kind to each other and materials, clean up, etc.) and a spot at the bottom where I can leave notes for their teacher.

  6. This year I introduced my "Teacher's Pet" Pumpkin. Pumpkin is a kitten/puppet. I explain that she is very shy, but if their table is quietly working she will come sit at their table and they can pet her. She says hello and later moves around and tries to get to all the quiet tables. Surprisingly, even my 6th grade students wanted Pumpkin to sit at their tables and were quiet for her!

  7. I introduce the project for the first day. I ask them to draw a self-portrait on a small index card. I show them 4 examples, one of me, one my husband did and one each of my two kids did. Then I show them self-portraits from history. For the littles I quickly show them three examples of self-portraits by famous artists. For the older kids I go into more detail about these artists. I explain that traditionally artists look in a mirror when they draw their self-portrait, but that today we will do a quick drawing from our memory/imagination. On the tables I have pencils and markers for the littles and colored pencils for the older kids.

  8. I walk around to the tables and tell children where to sit according to my seating chart (with grades 4-6 I did this first thing). I tell them once they are seated they should start working on their self-portrait, they will have 10-20 minutes, depending on the length of your classes. I ask them to put their name on the FRONT of the self-portrait because I will glue them down onto large sheets of paper and hang them in my classroom.

This is a quick way to get art from all of the kids up on the wall on the first day! Once they have been up for a few weeks I give them to their teachers to hang on their classroom walls. Let me know how your first day went in the comments below!

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