At the end of the year, it is sometimes really helpful to have a few mess-free classes. Here is an extensive collection of videos for the art classroom. Most of these are short clips, but there are a few longer videos to use if you need a good sub lesson or to engage students while you are cleaning and organizing!

I have previewed nearly all of these, but be careful! There are a few videos that show brief nudity. Also, YouTube advertisements are not always appropriate, so check out the videos before showing them to your students. Good luck! 



Has anyone ever tried to make your own award ribbons? Well, I did this year and it was a near catastrophe. I joke with my students when they make a mistake by saying, "Do we need to call the 'Art 911 Emergency Hotline'?" I needed that Art 911 myself last week! Eventually, I came up with a plan for making ribbons, spending only around .33 cents each! 

At my previous middle school, I ordered all my award ribbons via an art supply catalogue. I had plenty of ribbons and didn't need to order every year, so it wasn't something I thought about often. I had a box full of them in storage! I also had a much larger budget then ... I have to be pretty stingy about what I spend those dollars on now. Well, I changed schools and was kept pretty busy all year teaching PK-12th grade... every day I was a first year art teacher all over again. So, I honestly didn't give those ribbons a thought! When it was time to prepare the art show, I figured I could just buy them somewhere locally. Ha! I looked in at least six different stores and the only place offering them for sale was ridiculously overpriced, so I finally figured I would make them myself. (It was too late to order them online.)

I bought rolls of 2" red, blue, and white fabric ribbons and a couple of metallic paint pens. I was excited about making these, all the way up until I tried out one of the paint pens. The liquid bled and spread through the fabric and looked awful! I thought I would try outlining with a Sharpie marker, but that ink spread, too! 

So, my next step was to roll up my sleeves, gird up my loins, and go to Michael's. Now, I purposefully avoid  these places - whenever I do enter an art supply store, something weird happens to my art teacher brain. I go into a kind of a trance and I wander up and down the aisles, staring at all of these amazing art products. It is hard to hold onto any kind of self control, especially when you are already tired from hours of art show prep. 

Well, I did leave Michael's after about an hour (I think!) with a can of gold spray paint, some miniature silver doilies (paper), and a few packages of scrap book stickers of artsy images. I also bought a circle punch. I picked up a few more odds and ends but I PUT THEM BACK. I am hearing imaginary applause right now! (I used the gold spray paint to put finishing touches on my senior trophies made of wooden manikins.) Michael's does give us a 15 percent teacher discount on their products.

To make my award ribbons, I glued a silver doily on top of the badly inked writing. One went on the front, and one went on the back. I then printed out several different sizes of the lettering and cut out each one in curves to look like a "paint splotch." I cut out the silver circle for the middle by hand, then glued the print-out on top. However, the glue didn't hold the printer paper very well so I wound up using rolled up scotch tape on the back instead. These didn't take long to make, especially since I got my angelic sister to help! Thank you, Abigail! It took her about an hour to make 20 ribbons, with the ribbons pre-cut to size. 
  • 3 rolls of 2" fabric ribbon (4 yds) = $4.00 x 3 = $12.00
  • each award ribbon is about 8" long = 18 ribbons per roll, 54 ribbons total
  • 50 mini silver paper doilies (makes 25 ribbons) = $3.40 + $2.40 (coupon) = $5.80 
  • $5.80 + $12.00 = $17.80 divided by 54 = .33 cents per ribbon... I would have been charged $1.50 each at the Parent-Teacher Store!
  • if you add .28 cents for the scrapbook stickers then each one would be .61 cents. Each package of these was $1.69 with my teacher discount and had 6+ stickers inside. 
  • I had the chrome adhesive for the centers on hand already; it was donated. The circle punch didn't even work on that plastic stuff, so I didn't count the cost of it. 
I also printed out some Honorable Mention ribbons on the school copier (free to me) to hand guests as they arrived. Each guest could choose an art piece to recognize! I like this system a lot. 

Here are a few more ideas for handmade ribbons:

photo credit: Julie Durocher
Art teacher Julie Durocher uses no-name paintings to make these beautiful ribbons. She also gets the students to help! 

DIY Paper Award Ribbon, by Andreja, easypeasyandfun.com

End of School Award Ribbons, taunieverett.com

Online stores for purchasing award ribbons (prices reflect May of 2018)

jonesawards.com = .38 cents each but cheaper if ordered in bulk... these can be customized 

ribbonsgalore.com = .90 cents each but .40 cents if you order more than 25 and .27 cents if you order more than 100

rapidribbons.com = .45 - .50 cents each

Nasco; award ribbons 1st, 2nd 3rd  = .50 cents each

Party City = $1.99 each

Oriental Trading Company = assorted 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Participation ribbons $9.99 for 60 ribbons (.16 cents each but these are REALLY cheap looking ribbons).

Jerry's Artarama and School Specialty did not have award ribbons listed online. 

I looked in the following stores for award ribbons and only found them at the Parent Teacher store for $1.50 each. Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Dollar General, Target, Everything's a Dollar, Dollar Tree ... none had award ribbons. 

Where do you get your award ribbons? Have you tried making them before? 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols



This post was originally published last spring. I am re-posting with updates. 

Here is a compilation of some of the best ideas I have found on the Internet for ways to keep kids of all ages engaged even on the last day of school! (Scroll to the bottom of this post if you are looking for award ideas, behavior management help, or resources to write positive and effective report card comments.)


This year, after the art supplies were put away and the kids helped me clean the room, I showed them the below video and they went to town! All my middle school kids loved it, even the ones who said they "didn't want to do a friendship bracelet" wound up making one:

How To Make a Friendship Bracelet With a Cardboard Loom, Youtube

Rachel Hessing Wintemberg, The Helpful Art Teacher, has a brilliant idea for the last day of school. She has her middle school students do a day of paper airplane engineering! She says, "There was a drawing center set up with books for kids to look at and get ideas from an origami center. I let kids choose. For the airplane center they had to pick new designs. They were not allowed to just build the 'dart'. I had directions downloaded off the internet for them to choose from. We had distance contests and aim contests. I make sure each kid writes their name prior to throwing. The distance winners got to continue the contest out in the hallway. The accuracy winners got to compete in the 'see if you can hit the teacher from the back of the room' final contest in the last 5 minutes on the last day. I sat in a chair where the garbage can is in the video. They had to stand behind a certain line. First prize in all cases was 'bragging rights'."

Check out her video on YouTube: 

Keeping Kids Going Strong At The End of the Year, Cassie Stephens, theartofed.com, elementary or middle school

3 Art Challenges That Are Perfect For the End of the Year, by Wynita Harmon, theartofed.com, upper elementary, middle, or high school

2 Pt. Perspective - Google Slide Show, by Cheralynn Johnston at Stick Figure Art, (5th grade and up)

Surprise Creatures for the Last Art Day, by Lauren Stacey, Elements Of the Art Room, elementary

Mascot Mural For School: Grids, by Eric Gibbons, artedguru.com ... this is a low-mess collaborative drawing that could be adapted to upper elementary, middle, or high school

4 Engaging End of the Year Projects To Keep You Sane,  by Tracy Hare, theartofed.com, middle or high school

A "Genius" Way To End Your School Year, by Jennifer Carlisle, theartofed.com, middle or high school

Feeling a Bit Like An Artist Magician, by Peter Sansom ... upper elementary, middle, or high school (this blog post is about repeated drawings in a pattern...)

5 Legitimate Reasons To Take Your Students Outside, by Lindsey Moss, theartofed.com ... upper elementary, middle, or high school

End Your School Year With the Art Olympics!, by Timothy Bogatz, theartofed.com ... middle or high school

5 Games To Put An Artistic Twist On Field Day, by Lindsey Moss, theartofed.com... elementary

Surrealist Games, Cindy Ingram, Art Class Curator, upper elementary, middle, or high school

6 Innovative Ways To Use Up Leftover Paint, by Abby Schukei, theartofed.com ... upper elementary, middle, or high school

How To End the School Year In Peace and Harmony (Or How To Keep Them Engaged Until the End!), by Amy Zschaber, artfulartsyamy.com ... middle or high school

5 Super Fun End of the Year Projects, by Michelle East, createartwithme.com ... middle or elementary school

End of the Year Activities, Cassie Stephens, Youtube ... elementary school

Floating On to _____ Grade!! End of Year Project!, by elementaryartfun.blogspot.com ... elementary school

Scrap Paper Art, by Sheryl Depp, primarilyartwithmrsdepp.blogspot.com ... elementary school

Best End of the Year Stuff, collection by Tracy Carey, Pinterest

6 Activities To Make Your Art Room Even More Fun, by Alicia Eggers Kaczmarek, theartofed.com ... elementary or middle school

Pre-K - K End of Year Art Projects, by Audra Wallace, scholastic.com 

How a Student Survey Can Improve Your Classroom, by Suzanne Capek Tingley, wgu.edu

Save The Best For Last, by Jessica Balsley, theartofed.com ... elementary school

Other ideas for engaging, low mess projects for the last few days of school: 

  • Online videos; here is an extensive collection for all ages.. sometimes it is helpful to have a little mess-free classroom time, especially at the end of the year! 
  • Stations: Have a variety set up for kids to choose activities such as drawing books, puzzles, games, Legos, etc. Also, you could get out a bunch of odd, mis-matched, or donated items and put these out on the tables for a "Make-It Challenge!" This idea isn't necessarily low-mess, but it is a great way to get rid of excess supplies! We all know those pom-poms seem to multiply in the closet....😜
  • Origami
  • Drawing Practice via the Anti-Coloring Book or found online: Worksheets and Printables, pinterest.com
  • Flextangles
  • Weaving; here is Nic Hahn's Pinterest collection of weaving ideas
  • Photography - alphabet scavenger hunt outside
  • Texture rubbing contest outside - all you need is paper and crayons; who can find the most textures?
  • Pop Up Cards or Books (link takes you to the Pop-Up channel on Youtube)
  • Flip Books
  • Art Games - link takes you to a listing of a variety of art games
  • Drawing Games (Exquisite Corpse, etc.)
  • Sculpture Games (Sculptionary with modeling clay, marshmallow challenge, etc.)
  • Paper Dolls or Characters: directions on craftsy.com or directions on jampaper.com (use patterned paper, wrapping paper, wallpaper samples, etc. for clothing and for younger children cut out templates to trace for shirts, pants, etc.)
  • Art For Kids Hub (elementary) or Mark Crilley (middle school), YouTube, students draw along with the artist (using white boards and dry erase markers is highly recommended; there isn't as much pressure on kids to make the "perfect" drawing)
  • Mini Matisse: End of the Year Trace a Troll, by Nic Hahn
  • Roll a _____ Games: (Below is a design by art teacher Hannah Smith - more designs can be found on Pinterest)
  • Scrambled Art Grid Puzzles: more examples can be found on Pinterest


Making Your Own Award Ribbons, by Anna Nichols

Makers' Kit Grab Bags, by Cassie Stephens

Handmade awards; gold spray-painted palettes, paintbrushes, mannequins, wooden candle sticks, and wooden plaques by Francisco and Janell Matas (for high school outstanding student in photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, painting, digital art, AP studio, adapted art artist, adapted art, jewelry/metal, and outstanding senior)

At our upper school awards day ceremony this year, I was asked to have something ready to give our 7th-12th graders. I decided to choose who would receive an Art Excellence award based upon these criteria:
  • a willingness to learn
  • respectful and cheerful attitude
  • confident in trying new things/ willingness to take risks
  • attention to detail
  • going the extra mile... working hard to go above and beyond what is assigned
  • consistently pursuing excellence in visual art
My 7th-11th graders received a beautiful certificate (see below) and my seniors received a trophy that I made with wooden manikins, paint brushes, round wood plaques, and gold spray paint, thanks to the Matas' idea above! 

Choosing elementary awards will be much more difficult - there are too many creative, talented, and hardworking  artists in our lower school! I read an idea on the Art Teachers Facebook group about having the students vote for who THEY think should receive the awards. Whew! That idea is going to save me this year! 
Certificate Designs by Leanne Godbee:

Abby found these plastic party favors in the party supply section of Hobby Lobby. She painted them gold and added the jewels.

Click on this link, Art Award Template, to download a DIY paper template to make this nifty art trophy! The design is from Leslie Gould at heythatsmyartteacher.blogspot.com 


    101 Report Card Comments To Use Now, by Genia Connell, scholastic.com

    100 Report Card Comments, educationworld.com

    Comment Ideas For Report Cards, by Chantal Latour, teachnet.com


    40 End of the Year Cleanup Jobs For Your Students, by Jennifer Borel, theartofed.com

    End of the Year Clean Up Strategies, by Patty Palmer, deepspacesparkle.com


    3 Ways To Make Sketchbooks From Scraps, by Amber Kane, theartofed.com

    What To Do With Old Art, by Jennifer L. Gironda, jenniferlovegironda.com

    Making Old Art Into Displays For the Band Room, Facebook post, by Anna Nichols (based on J. Love Gironda's idea from above)


    My plan for the end of the year madness fits right in with the ideas for developing intrinsic motivation in this edutopia article by David Palank. If one of my middle school students acts up, I pull them aside and tell them that they will not be participating in the sculpture project until they write a one page essay about HOW THEY PLAN TO BEHAVE from now until May 25. ("Self Persuasion")
    I ask them, "What are you going to DO? What are you NOT going to do in my class?" Then, I look the student straight in the eyes and say, "If this happens again, there will be a discipline assignment and a parent contact. Do you WANT that to happen?"
    I know, I know - consequences are technically a form of extrinsic motivation, but the above strategy works because it lays responsibility for misbehavior squarely on the shoulders of the students. There is no reason for ME to get upset with their behavior and lecture and scold. The one who should be getting upset with the behavior is the student!
    I have divvied out several of these quick essays in the last few weeks: students understood exactly what they were doing that was inappropriate AND they outlined specific ways to behave that were better choices! (There have been a few students who went home with a discipline assignment to be signed by their parents - they lost art participation time as well in order to write the discipline assignment.)
    So far, the end of year misbehaviors in my middle school classroom have been very mild - the kids have been respectful to me, are working hard, and are taking responsibility for their actions.
    I had been dreading these last few weeks of school because of the wild behavior I have seen in the past; not anymore! Mischief managed!

    Here are a few terrific articles by Michael Linsin (smartclassroommanagement.com) about handling kids right before a holiday: 

    "Wait... That's All?" Why That End-Of-Year Art Portfolio Isn't Thicker, by Mrs. Joanna Elliott, mrselliottart.blogspot.com

    article by Mrs. Anna Nichols



    Recently I experienced a surprise when an otherwise delightful group of first graders went crazy with liquid glue... one kid started unscrewing the lids and pouring glue in a big puddle on the (carpeted) floor, another was waving his glue bottle around high in the air over his drawing, randomly dripping glue all over it. Some of the students' drawings had so much glue on them that it dripped right off the edge of the drying rack and onto the floor. What a mess!

    Now, I know that this is all par for the course, and I've cleaned up many accidents before in the last 14 years of teaching art. However, in my mind I knew I needed some questions answered. This is my first year to teach art full time to grades PK-12; I had been teaching art to middle schoolers for 13 years!

    1. Was this a discipline problem?
    Were several kids in need of consequences for being destructive and/or not following the directions?
    2. Was it a motivation problem?
    Did the kids not care about doing a good job; all they wanted to do was play in the glue?
    3. How about a teaching problem? Was there a way I could have presented the lesson differently, or was my lesson too advanced for first grade? Are first graders developmentally ready to use liquid glue? I thought they were, but perhaps I was wrong!
    4. What about special needs? Was there a chance that my little glue pourer has special needs that have not been diagnosed yet?

    Where did I go wrong? I had done a detailed demonstration about how to use the glue bottle, listening to it "breathe," opening and closing the lid, how to apply glue along the lines of a drawing, etc.

    I asked for help in the Elementary Art Teachers Facebook group and I got lots of advice! I also did some reading online, searching for as many tips as possible about managing liquid glue. It turns out that first graders are perfectly capable of handling themselves when it comes to liquid glue (this was not a developmental issue), so for our next class I worked one on one to coach my two culprits. They did great!

    TOP 5 TIPS:

    1. Teach, re-teach, and teach some more:

    • Show them how to, "Dot, dot, not a lot!" Have kids repeat this phrase over and over, like a chant. Using a very small amount of glue will be much more effective than using a lot.
    • Demonstrate how to check if the glue bottle is "breathing."
    • Have them practice drawing dots and lines with glue with a paper throw away"Glue Test" if your budget will allow.
    • When drawing with liquid glue, train kids to "touch the paper" and drag, with the glue held vertically. Kids tend to hold the glue horizontally, so teach them what works best. They also tend to hold the glue in the air above the paper instead of touching the paper... that is a disaster waiting to happen!
    • GIVE NON-EXAMPLES: show the kids what NOT to do, not simply what TO do. Wave your arm high above the paper, dripping random streams of glue. Squeeze the glue bottle too hard, or not hard enough. Show what could happen if you take off the entire lid instead of twisting the orange cap.
    2. When the glue bottle clogs:
    • After cleaning out the clogged nozzles (I soaked them in hot water and used a bent paper clip and tiny bottle scrubber), let them dry and spray the interior with a little bit of vegetable oil or use a q-tip to apply vaseline. It also helps to wipe a tiny bit of vaseline around the screw top to keep the lid from getting stuck on. (Some art teachers do this immediately with new glue bottles to prevent clogging.)
    • Have a "Glue Hospital" bin next to replacement bottles. Train the kids to get their own new bottle instead of pestering you! With a little time, you can also train kids to unclog their own glue bottles.
    • Store the bottles upside down, tightly closed. This helps to keep them from clogging.

    3. Glue Bottle Alternatives:
    • Make glue sponges in plastic bins for everyday gluing: this is a simple idea to keep messes to a minimum, and will be successful if you spritz with water at the end of the day and occasionally add an antibacterial agent, such as rubbing alcohol, to the mix. Some art teachers have found these to be a hassle, and some swear by them!
    • Use cheap, disposable paint brushes, cardboard strips, popsicle sticks, or q-tips to dip into small condiment containers of liquid glue. Teach the kids to "dip and wipe" the q-tip to prevent dripping. These containers come with lids, so you can keep the glue fresh for days! (Helpful hint: minimize the level of glue in the cups - a little bit of glue goes a loooong way!)
    • Buy a class set of small plastic bottles with built-in brushes here or here. Some teachers use glass baby food jars, but in my experience, the students dropped them, creating a safety hazard of shattered glass all over the floor. I will not use these again in my classroom.

    4. For tiny hands, get the 1 ounce glue bottles! Their muscles are still developing - these little bottles are much easier for preschool, kindergarten, and first graders to use.

    5. When hands get sticky: instead of sending kids to the sink or using up all of your hand wipes, teach them to rub their fingers/hands together to get rid of the glue residue on their skin. They love it!

    More Resources:

    Too Much Glue, by Jason Lefebvre, children's books read aloud by Allie Lamb, YouTube

    A Dot Is a Lot (Clap, Clap), Art Class With Ms. S., YouTube

    "Art Teacherin' 101: Episode 6; NO MORE GLUE BOTTLES," YouTube

    Glue Practice Pages, theinspiredtreehouse.com

    The Gluestick Pledge, The Kindergarten Chronicles, Facebook video

    The Glue Unclogger 2000, Mini Matisse

    3 Glue Methods, Mini Matisse

    Procedures: Learning To Use Glue, by Sally Haughey, fairydustteaching.com

    Teaching Kids How To Use Glue, by Claire Heffron, theinspiredtreehouse.com

    Our Favorite Ways To Glue In Preschool, teachpreschool.org

    A Kindergarten Smorgasboard How To Video; Glue Sponges!, by Mr. Greg Smedley-Warren

    They Don't Tell You This In Your College Art Ed Program, by Phyllis Levine Brown, There's A Dragon In My Art Room

    No More Glue Blues, by Patricia Fuglestad

    How Do You Glue, by Jessica Balsley, theartofed.com

    Glue Stick or Glue Bottle? That is the Question, by Heather Crockett, theartofed.com


    "I CAN'T DO THIS!" ...Part I

    If you have reached the point in the year where you want to give up, remember that you are probably already doing the thing you feel that you "can't do." 

    I reached this point two weeks ago. I hit rock bottom and couldn't stop crying... until I remembered this:

    If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "I can't draw," I would be rich! 

    Every. single. time. a student says these words, I look down at an ACTUAL DRAWING they created and I am tempted to (and sometimes actually do) LAUGH. The truth is, everyone who has the mental capability and manual dexterity to write their name CAN draw. They are just believing a lie, that's all. 

    Don't believe for a second that you can't do this job. 

    ...You are already doing it. You show up every day and teach. 

    You. Can. Do. This. 

    I started from scratch this year at a new school where I serve every grade level from PK-12th grade (after teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grades for 13 years). 

    I am a first year teacher all over again; every day I teach a new lesson to any group other than middle school IT IS THE VERY FIRST TIME. 

    Growth Mindset. 

    I wrote the following notes last year, and I am sharing them again because I need to focus on the truth... I hope these words encourage you. 

    The only art teacher your students have is YOU - you are there for a reason. Believe in what you are doing! Others may criticize you or they may say you are doing a wonderful job. What they think really doesn't matter. Nothing can change the fact that you have a unique opportunity to effect a student's life for the better. Nobody else can do the job you are doing; nobody else teaches like you do. Don't compare yourself to others! Your students may not show it all the time, but they admire you and the knowledge you have to share. ROCK THAT CLASSROOM, TEACH.

    If you are feeling unappreciated right now, please know that the kids show you they care in so many ways! They don't have to say it out loud to communicate how they feel about you:

    ...When your students bring you a little piece of art they made, they are really saying how much they admire you. All these little gifts are acts of love, even the wrinkled, smudged, and slightly torn ones!

    ...When they offer to help sweep, or clean, or carry something for you, they are saying, "I love you!"

    ...When the kids who normally goof off in their regular academic classes listen and put forth a lot of effort in Art class, working to learn what YOU are trying to teach, they are saying, "You are a great teacher and I care about pleasing YOU!"

    ...When students come up to you during class to talk your ears off about the car they are restoring in the garage with stepdad, or about the amazing Youtube channel they found, etc., they are saying, "I want to spend time with you! You are an important person in my life and I love to share my thoughts with you!"

    Teachers, you are amazing! You are doing one of the most important jobs on earth - serving and teaching our children, making a difference in the lives of future generations. Keep up the good work!

    Here are a few other excellent resources:

    From the video, "5 Ways You Are Making a Difference," by Patty Palmer:
    "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open.” – Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille –

    "Sometimes it’s hard to believe when you get on social media that these awesome art teachers that you follow might actually experience burnout, but they do. If they tell you they don’t, they be lying. Don’t believe them." 

    Everyday Art Room, Episode 9, Burnout, Cassie Stephens

    My Name Is Tom. I've Been a Teacher For Nearly 10 Years and I still Get My Ass Kicked Nearly Every Day , by Tom Rademacher, educationpost.org

    Finding your Inner Spirit Animal and Ultimately Yourself…, by Jennifer Pulbratek, NAEA Monthly Mentor article

    Editor's note: A few days after this article was originally published, a reader challenged the attribution of this quote, "I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it," saying that Vincent Van Gogh actually is the one who should have been credited. I did a little research and found out that, sure enough, many sources mistakenly attribute this quote to Pablo Picasso. Thank you for the correction!