Getting back into the groove of the school year has its challenges. For me, filling those first few days was always the hardest. With all of the paperwork, seating charts, and learning names, it’s hard to jump straight into instruction and projects on day one. These 7 back to school art activities were always my go-tos to fill the first few days of school or sometimes weeks, of the upcoming year of school. Student-directed is the best way to go!
My first day always consists of going over the syllabus and filling out a get-to-know-you sheet. This is a great way for me to learn a few facts about each student and get their hands busy as soon as they walk into the room.
One of my favorite back to school art activities is DIY sketchbooks. In every class, my students make their own sketchbooks. Each class learns a different bookbinding technique; they go from simple techniques in my intro-level courses (such as turning a manila folder into a sketchbook) to more complex in my advanced classes (such as Coptic bookbinding). Once we wrap up the paperwork, I have them start gathering supplies to decorate their sketchbook covers. They are free to decorate it however they choose, which helps familiarize them with the art room and location of school supplies. This project typically takes the first week of school, it’s the perfect lead-in to more instructional-focused projects. Plus, your students will have a great time preparing their sketchbooks!
Through the course of the year in my Intro to Art class, students end up with tons of handouts, small projects, activities, and papers in general. Because of that, I have them bring in 2 sheets of posterboard to turn into a portfolio. They can tape or staple them together (leaving one long end open), add their name, and any decoration. Everything that fits, goes in here during the course. This is another one of my quick, student-directed back to school art activities that you can use fill the first day or first few days of art class.
Another good back to school art activity are early finishers for when students have extra or free time. Include student-directed early finisher handouts along with the get to know you sheets. Put 3-5 options on a table, supplies, and allow students to pick a sheet. They start the early finisher once they complete their get to know you sheet. These early finisher activities are a fun way to get younger and older students into a routine for the rest of your art lessons. Examples of quick and fun art projects are plant handouts, OP art squiggles, animal drawing guides, and similar.
One back to school art activity my coworker does that I love is a timed drawing assignment. She covers her tables in big sheets of butcher block paper and spreads out markers. She sets a timer for a few minutes and tells them to draw whatever they want. Once the timer goes off, they slide over a seat and add to the drawing their neighbor started. This is repeated until they return to their seat to see what has become of their original creation. You can time this to fill up the remainder of the class period, with a few minutes to spare for clean up. Put out new sheets for every class.
This requires very little setup and clean up and it lets you see how creative your students can get in a short period of time. Don’t forget to float the room and keep an eye out for inappropriate additions to drawings. You want to nip that in the bud on day one. This is one of those easy art projects that your students will LOVE!
It’s never too early to start with core content in your visual art course! But, that first week, start small. Teaching basics such as the elements of art and principles of design is a great idea before you jump into a bigger project. Check out my worksheet packs here and here (sets that include posters are here and here).
For advanced-level art courses you may be able to jump right into a project. My favorite back to school art project is my 25 Things mixed media. Your high school students will make a list of 25 things about themselves and choose one to turn into a work of art. They are given an 18″x24″ canvas panel, the rest is up to them. They must use at least two different materials to be considered mixed media, but they have full access to my supplies. This is a fantastic way for me to get to know them through their lists, and also give me a good idea of their ability level and creative ideas. It helps create a baseline for each student at the start of the year.
However you choose to start the year, go into it knowing it will be a great year. The most important things to do are set expectations early, be firm, and have fun! Good luck and thanks for stopping by to read these back to school activities!
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Need back-to-school tips for your art classroom for the start of a new school year? Check out this blog post with my top 7 here.