I start training my students from Day 1 on how to take care of the art room. I am very big on personal responsibility and I think it is important for students to clean up after themselves. Keeping order and structure in the art room helps ensure that the supplies are well maintained and the students treat them with the proper respect. It also helps me prepare for all the different grade levels and their respective skill sets. I believe a well-managed classroom with clearly defined expectations reduces discipline problems.
Because I see every child in the school, I create assigned seating for every class each year. I expect that all students are to remain in their assigned seats during class, unless they have a valid reason for being out of their seat (sharpening a pencil, throwing something away, getting supplies etc). The children are allowed to stand while they work if it help them (papier-mâché projects often are easier to do standing). In the past I divided each class into six tables: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. This helps me manage clean up responsibilities as well.
B. Attendance Records
For safety reasons I always take attendance at the beginning of every art class. Since I also assign each student a daily/weekly grade for participation, this not only helps me keep track of who has been attending school, but it also helps me be accountable for the children during any emergency. Although specialists are not required to enter attendance into the computer system, I do take it for these reasons at the beginning of every class period.
C. Everything is Color Coded When Possible
To help me stay organized and to keep students accountable, I try to color code things as much as possible in the art room. Each table is assigned supply trays, and at the end of class, they are held accountable for the contents. Students are not allowed to share supplies with neighboring tables. This way, if something goes missing, I can more easily narrow down who the responsible parties are.
D. Clean Up Procedures
Clean up in the art room is handled in turns by the boys and girls. Each week will either be a “boys’ week” or a “girls’ week.” I use a yellow sign at the front of the room to indicate whether or it is the boys turn or the girls turn to be in charge of clean up (the sign changes each Monday). This helps minimize how many students use the sinks if paint or water is involved. It also designates who is to clean up paper on the floors, or wipe the tables down with sponges. When it is “boys’ week” the boys should be counting up the supply trays. When it is “girls’ week” it is their turn to count the trays.
When students are done cleaning they are to count the items in their trays and make sure that all items are accounted for. I then personally inspect each tray before they leave to ensure that all the supplies are there. Depending on the difficulty of the assignment, and how messy it is, I allow between 5 and 10 minutes for clean-up (usually 5 minutes for dry projects, and 10 minutes for anything involving paint or glue).
Large Messes and Accidental Spills: If a student makes a large mess, (such as an accidental spill) then it is ok for them to ask for help. I always encourage the kids to tell me when there is a problem. I explain to them that I do not get angry about accidents or mistakes. But if they walk away and pretend they did not do it, and I find it later, then I will be angry. Cleaning up large spills is a safety concern too.
I have four rules in my classroom:
1) Follow all school and classroom rules (including any rules established in their homeroom).
2) When the teacher is speaking or giving directions, students will not talk.
3) At cleanup students are responsible for their own cleanup as well as assisting their table to cleanup.
4) Keep hands feet and objects to yourselves.
Students are not to leave until the room is neat. They are not to leave until their trays are neat. If a student makes a large mess, (such as an accidental spill) then it is ok for them to ask for help. When working, the students may talk in whispers only and they must be working while they talk. I do take points off their participation grade for loud or excessive talking.
Students who misbehave will be given a warning. If they continue, they will be given a time out. Time outs usually last the remainder of the class period, if it is the end of the class, sometimes I will carry a time out over to the next class. Students in time out will have their own art supplies and must work alone.
If a student was caught doing something more serious (but not serious enough to send them to the office), I may give them a writing assignment. For the writing assignment I ask them to describe what they were doing, why it was wrong and what they should have been doing instead. This writing assignment is geared toward 3rd-5th grade. The writing assignment may be handed to their classroom teacher at the end of class so that they may put it in the child’s folder for parent conferences as a record of their behavior.
I try to handle most minor discipline problems in the art room. Usually, a seat change or other small correction is all that is needed. Students are only sent to the office if a particular behavior poses a threat to themselves or others. (For example, if a student is caught using scissors in an unsafe manner which poses a risk to them or the students around them and could be interpreted as “threatening,” they will get a discipline referral).