photo from Shelly's video, TABS Choice Learning
So here was the challenge: how can I create a studio environment that is effective for middle school? 

I told the kids I was going to stop teaching (teacher pause)….loud student cheering…. like I have been teaching. I will now only teach about 10 minutes each day. 

"Huh? What was that? What do you mean?" they said. 

"You will now get to choose what kind of art YOU want to create! Anything you want... BUT it has to get approval from me. This will be difficult to do, but I think you are smart and up for that challenge!"

I realized it was all in the buy-in. Did they buy in to this way of creating art? I was determined to make them think it was the most amazing thing in the world. 

I structured everything into the "Eight Studio Habits of Mind." The book, Studio Thinking 2, by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan, illustrates this way of thought best. The Studio Habits are as follows: 

photo credit; Pinterest.com
1. Understanding Art Worlds:
Domain: Learning about art history and current practice. Communities: Learning to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e., in classrooms, in local arts organizations, and across the art field) and within broader society.

2. Stretch and Explore: 
Learning to reach beyond one’s capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents. 

3. Reflect: 
Question and Explain: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process. 
Evaluate: Learning to judge one’s own work and working process, and the work of others in relation to standards of the field. 

4. Observe: Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen.

5. Develop Craft: 
Technique: Learning to use tools (e.g., viewfinders, brushes), materials (e.g., charcoal, paint); learning artistic conventions (e.g., perspective, color mixing) Studio Practice: Learning to care for tools, materials and space. 

6. Engage and Persist: Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus and other mental states conducive to working and persevering at art tasks. 

7. Envision: Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece. 

8. Express: Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning. 

photo from Shelly's video, TABS Choice Learning
In the book, the authors present the Habits of Mind in an oval because they believe they are non-hierarchical, so none logically come first or last. The belief is that these should not be taught in a set sequence. Any habit can begin a project and should create a dynamic generative energy. 

So, the first step was designing my space - I needed flow! I didn’t need students constantly bumping into each other and I made sure to put my "Painting," "Sculpture and Mask Making," and "Clay" stations closest to my sinks. My "Digital Media" needed to be as far away from anything liquid as possible. I also was selective about how many students I would allow at each station. I needed to get in my head a maximum number of kids I wanted to work at "Sculpture." 

You are still only one person. This type of teaching makes you feel like an octopus, mind you! I decided I would only allow one student at a time at "Clay." This is a personal preference. I only let three in "Sculpture," four in "Drawing," and so forth. This is something you will have to determine yourself on what you can manage and the number of students in your class as well as how many different type of stations you set up. I also close some stations down. I may not have had the opportunity to demonstrate that area yet. So, until I get to a lesson that teaches students how to use it, RED light on that area.

Now comes the teaching part. The key is 5-10 minute popcorn lessons. There is a time and a place for long lessons. This is an exploratory type of learning. Again, you are there to guide and push THEIR creativity. 

photo credit: Shelly Bailey
Demonstrate different media. Show them how to create a printing foam plate, ink a plate, describe the tools and their proper names. Make lots of posters to hang over each section. Label the parts of a brush and so forth. When you speak to the kids, reference their tools by the proper names. Remind them to read the binders at each table for information. I provide tablets and Chromebooks for students to use as reference tools as well as tons of lesson books, text books, and a variety of picture examples. 

I try very hard to not answer their questions. Yes, I have become that teacher who answers a question with a question! This way of teaching is VERY exciting for students BUT very hard. It will frustrate them a great deal because they don’t want to sit and listen to you but they also don’t want to explore the answers themselves. They want you to tell them how or do it for them. Resist the urge to do this. It is not about you, but about them and how well they are absorbing the process. 

TAB or Choice Based Learning is all in the process! 

TAB stands for TEACHING for ARTISTIC BEHAVIOR. TAB recognizes the student as an artist. That word is important to use. This will build self confidence and self esteem. They are to design their own work. This helps a student to understand what they are doing to become more vested in the end result. I can’t tell you how many times students get ten minutes into a project and come to me and ask if they can move to another station. My answer is always emphatically, "No." 

I will NEVER let a student give up. 

photo credit: Shelly Bailey
It is always super important to help direct their thoughts without doing the work for them. Reference them to samples, send them to teacher approved Youtube channels, demonstrate personally. Ask them open ended questions. None of those "Yes/No" answers! The beauty of this way of teaching is that students can work at their own pace. I had to throw mass production and tons of completed work "out the window!" Some students spend 5 weeks on one project. I have no problem with this if they are engaged and always working. 

The idea is about quality and understanding, not about quantity. The reality is that you are always going to get someone who decides they are just going to sit and do nothing and drag it out. Let me remind you that you are not giving "G’s" for "Good" in middle school. You are giving grades. So, how do you grade if you have a student who only makes two projects for a semester and another who produces five? The answer is simple: daily class participation grades. Yes, that is very elementary! However, you have to be aware of what is going on in your room. You can not sit at your desk and answer emails and get wrapped up in writing a lesson plan. You have to pay attention at all times to what is happening in your room; more specifically, what your students have done to stay on task. I will redirect a few times but then I remind my students that if I see them not working, it is a zero for the day. 

photo credit; Shelly Bailey
I am an all or nothing kind of gal, too. Coloring one section of your piece that is the size of a quarter does not equate 100% participation for the day. I will give a zero for that. They always panic when they see they don’t have a 100 in art. You will hear, “Will I move to the next grade if I fail your class?” The answer is not one you want to advertise as being a "yes." This is something they need to get used to. As I am also the teacher at the high school and I am trying to prepare them for a more intense grading system when they join me over there. I spend the majority of my day teaching 9th-12th graders. I travel at the very end of the day to teach one course at the middle school. I would love to see them have a full time art teacher at both schools. However, right now that is not in the cards. So I do the best I can to prepare the students I do have at the middle school for high school life and try to "unbaby" them. 

So, how does a day look? I start with a popcorn lesson. It may be a demonstration about different drawing tools and how to use them. The parts of a brush, how to use watercolor paint and different techniques, one point perspective, using paper mache, or how to create a pinch pot. You get the idea! 

I go full on elementary level with them. It works! I sit in a chair and make my students sit around me on the floor. This guarantees I have their full attention. If I need to demonstrate, I will set up a small table in front of them or an easel. 

Students are also required to create a plan before they can create. The first time we began, I wrote each child’s name on a piece of paper and drew their name from a bowl. They got to choose where they wanted to go. This was a lottery system of sorts to get them started. As students begin to finish projects they come to me and ask which station is open and where could they go work. 

photos from Shelly's video, TABS Choice Learning

I have paper plans for the kids to fill out and they are required to create a sketch of what they want to make. I have to initial this plan before they can begin work. I make them save ALL plans and sketches. I have folders for each class. This is a great way to assess their progress. This is what I love about TAB teaching. You can really see student growth and development. 

I am going to be honest. My kids really get frustrated because my standards are very high. They want to draw a person and bring me a cartoon. I make them start again and go read books on proper proportions and watch videos. Then I will sit with the student and help them step by step periodically. When students finish their final piece they always have to fill out an artist statement form. It is important they still understand the elements of art and principles of design. They have to have a title for their art and be able to explain their inspiration. It’s one thing to make art, but they also have to be able to talk about it. Since I adopted TAB teaching, I have noticed the students get very excited when they finish a piece! They revert back to that first grade child who splits their face in half with a smile when I hug them and tell them what a wonderful job they did and how much they learned in the process. I always point out their struggles and how they overcame. 

photo from Shelly's video, TABS Choice Learning

I have far fewer discipline issues. Students are doing what they want to do so they are engaged. You will still always have something that happens in class. It is almost impossible to develop a perfect group of 20+ hormonal preteens/teens. However, they are old enough to understand sarcasm. I will say my own teenagers taught me many things over the years. When they show out, I shut them down. I have no problem teasing a child into submission. It is all in how you do it though. They have to know you love them. You can’t make fun of a kid and it come across as mean. They have to see your heart behind your eyes. For example, my kids are very smart. BUT, they still want to do as little as humanly possible and look for the easiest solution to creating something. They will bring me a sketch and I will ask them if they are 5 or 12? They always grin and drop their head. They know. Meaning….they know I am on to them. They have gotten to where they come to me and I just say no to a drawing and point to the resource center. 

I have heard so many times from my other students, “You know that is not complicated enough for her! You have to go put more stuff in your drawing.” OR “That doesn’t look real enough.” They have started helping each other. That is the most amazing thing to witness because they are peer helping. They are critiquing each other’s work. Which is something you want to happen. The beauty is, it naturally happens if you stick to high standards. 

I push them like high school students. They are very capable. They go through some sort of process in art with me now. They don’t like me at first. Who is this woman who is always telling me I need to do more? This is soooooo hard! But half way though they all get a break through. By the end they don’t want to leave and see me in the halls now and tell me how much they miss art. 

They miss ART, ya’ll!! Deep breath, sigh.


After all, aren’t we all teaching art because we love it and are trying to teach others to appreciate the arts? Now back to the reality. Do I have students I struggle with? Who I wish I could pinch? Sure. I still have to write students up. This didn’t cure all misbehavior. Everyone has experienced that one student no matter how hard you try, has a chip on their shoulder and works super hard to be bad. I just have to tell myself they are children, no matter how large they are. 

photo credit: Shelly Bailey
Lastly, their work is very impressive. I love the surprise I experience regularly about different talents my kids possess. It doesn’t take long for the kids to find out they thrive in painting but don’t like weaving. Or, that they love the thrill of having messy hands with starch as they build an amazing creation or dislike the tedious nature of hand stitching. Or, it could be just the opposite. They hate being messy but love the detail work of hand stitching or weaving. They really are exploring a lot of different media! If they have an idea and it doesn’t fit the mold somewhere, I am always open to listening and trying to help them work out a plan to complete it. 

The key here is to try and expose them to as much as possible and allow them to explore. Not all classrooms will work this way. I have too much to teach at the high school to operate a classroom like this at that level. However it works beautifully at the middle school. I suppose I do a version of choice at my advanced Art 3 and Art 4 levels at the high school. Elementary school might choose to do TAB days. You don’t have to set up an entire room to TAB teaching to still use this method. You can have just a few centers set up. Make up a "Fun Friday" on the elementary level. Create a sticker chart where a class has to earn a certain number of stickers for good behavior. Once they have achieved the right number, give them a Fun Friday and do a version of TAB centers. Get creative on how you explore this method. I personally love it and will not go back to my old way at the middle school level. It just works way too well and my students are so much more pleasant and producing amazing pieces of art. TAB is a new way of life for me and one I love so very much!

If you have any questions or would like me to share any lessons or documents with you I am happy to email you what I have. 

Many Blessings and Happy Creating!

Shelly Bailey

Below is a video Shelly created about the process of transforming a middle school art classroom into a TAB studio environment: "Shelly Bailey TABS Choice Learning"

helpful links:

article by Mrs. Shelly Bailey



here is Shelly next to one of her original paintings
An award winning veteran teacher, Mrs. Shelly Bailey recently switched from teaching elementary art to teaching middle and high school art in a new school district. Teaching a single middle school class every afternoon (after teaching at the neighboring high school most of the day), she was at her wits' end trying to figure out how to deal with multiple issues. There were behavior problems as well as a culture shift in the school with new administration. She was also the "new teacher" trying to teach art to kids who had never even had an art class. Here is the first part of her story about how the TAB philosophy (Teaching For Artistic Behavior) helped her create a passion for art in her students (and keep her sanity!) 

Dear Art Friends, 

Before I began doing TAB teaching, I began to research. I was not dying to start something new, mind you. 

However, I was struggling. 

"Hmmmm," you say? Yes, hard to imagine a middle school art teacher with any struggles, right? I say this tongue in cheek. Discipline is an issue in any visual art production oriented class. We just have a lot going on. If you don’t have seriously strong and understood rules, an art class can get very out of hand. But, combine that with hormones, being a part time teacher who only teaches one class a day, and lack of discipline support from administration... let’s be real here; I was miserable. 

This blog is to help real life teachers like yourself. I don’t want to sugarcoat this. I had large issues that I didn’t know how to fix with my standard way of teaching. I have been in art education for 22 years. I should be able to say, "I have done and seen it all and I am an expert." Right? 


Times continue to change, as do students, attitudes, technology, and parents. Not all in a bad way, either. I mean wow... Pinterest has changed my life. :) We do, however, see an evolution in the classroom. Students are so technologically plugged in. That is such an amazing thing. I am from the generation of pay-phones and libraries. If you were late coming home from your designated time you were grounded. My phone conversations consisted of stretching the phone cord as far as I could get it into the kitchen pantry; sitting in the dark while I gossiped with my friends on the phone until my mom or dad opened the door and blinded me with the lights and told me to get off. 

When I was feeling rebellious I’d go down to the basement, but dad would keep picking up the phone as my “cue” to get off. If I ignored it, he systematically beat on the flooring overhead with his foot. However, if it escaped my teenage mind I would get the dreaded pick up, with him screaming my name on the line to hang up and that he needed to use the phone... mortal embarrassment! Kids are a little more oblivious of embarrassment these days. They can cut you down quicker than you can think of a snappy comeback. Fear doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary. 

I say, "fear," because I had a healthy dose of that growing up. It was bred out of respect for my elders. I did not want to experience the wrath that could and would ensue.

Hence my dilemma. 

We had a turnover of all administration in the entire front office. Things were in chaos. Rules were unclear or constantly changing. Not only did the kids seem to be running things, faculty members were always angry and put out. 

So, in the midst of this craziness and misery I decided that I was a smart woman! If you allow negativity to feed into your spirit it can overcome you. Open the door a crack and it can quickly become a gaping cavern. Misery loves company! 

I had to break the pattern. I visually saw myself in a pit and I found the ladder to climb out. 

photo from Shelly's video, "Tabs Choice Learning"

I had heard about TAB teaching before. But, like most of us who think of student-driven art, my brain went to, “Oh, heck no!! I mean, I need to teach them things, right?" I pride myself on organized chaos. A TAB classroom just sounded like a room full of puppies; super cute and adorable for about 5 minutes, then you can’t keep them in one spot or stop them from barking or biting each other. Anyone else out there experience puppy behavior? 

photo from Shelly's video, Tabs Choice Learning
So, after deep thought and contemplation, this is what I came up with. My kids didn’t understand art. Most of them had never even had art in elementary school. They just got a part time art teacher in my district two years ago so the program there is in the baby stages of development. What my kids knew about art was what they had taught themselves or seen on t.v. They literally wanted to draw rainbows, write their initials, and fill up a piece of paper with hearts or cartoons. Sigh... this is every art teacher’s worst nightmare. 
To add insult to injury, I was their last class of the day. 

They were spent. They wanted to go outside and play. “Isn’t art supposed to be about playing?" they’d say. "Why do we have to sit here and listen to you talk to us? Why do we have to follow you step by step?" 

I would reply, "Because I said so." Sheesh... that sounded like my parents talking. I heard so much, “I don’t want to do this” and “I don’t like art” more than I ever had in my life!

"Wow!" I said to myself, "Is it me? Do I need to stop teaching? Have I lost my touch?"

Then it hit me. They don’t know HOW to create! 

photo from Shelly's video, Tabs Choice Learning

What is creativity? Ask them to think outside of the box and they ask me, "What box? Huh? What do you mean?"

But, more importantly, I finally understood what these particular students needed. Are you ready for the magic word? The word that changed my life? 


Oh gracious, I had lost my ever loving mind. Giving middle school kids control is crazy. 

I thought, "They will surely fire me over this one!"

But then I went back to the awesomeness of me. Yes, I say awesomeness! Because I forgot momentarily that I am awesome. So are you!

I am educated. I have two degrees. I show my art professionally. I am 42 years old (doesn’t that mean by default I have some life experience brilliance?). I have raised 4 children. Wait stop….what? I have raised children!!!! Ding Ding Ding…..It was so simple I felt stupid. 

How many times had I convinced my children to do things I knew they didn’t want to do? I made it always sound like it was their idea! Brilliant! So I presented TAB to my students this way. 
"Boys and girls, I am about to change our room around. Don’t mind the mess for the next week. We are about to start a new kind of art. The kind you will get to control!"
Okay...right then their interest was caught. Students replied, “What did you say Mrs. Bailey?!"  
"Yes you heard me right. But right now, I can’t talk about it. When I get the room ready then I will tell you in detail."

I organized my room into pods. Drawing, Printmaking, Architecture, Clay, Sculpture and Mask Making, Digital Media and Photography, Art History, Resource Center, Painting, Collage, and Fiber Arts. I pushed desks together and put supplies in close proximity to these areas. I created binders with "How To’s" and explanations. They also included sample completed lessons. I spent hours and days compiling information. 

photo from Shelly's video, "Tabs Choice Learning"

I pulled up everything I could find on TAB teaching. I borrowed and revamped other teacher plans and documents. I must have made 8,000 labels and collected as many containers as I could find to put various supplies in. I basically turned my supply closet inside out. 

My kids were mesmerized and couldn’t wait to find out what I was doing and what they were about to do. 

So the play began... at least that is what my students thought was about to occur!

To be continued in Part II... 



On my way to school last week, I got stuck behind a little sedan driving about 20 miles per hour. Their hazard lights were flashing and I noticed that one of their tires was completely flat. There was nowhere for me to get around this car, I just had to drive 20 miles per hour, too. All of us in that lane, going in that direction, on that little highway, had no choice but to slow down behind the little disabled car. In the classroom, we can only go as fast as the slowest student, too, whether that means there are learning roadblocks or behavioral. As much as we would like to just travel at a normal pace, we have to slow down, and the weeks leading up to Spring Break can be excruciatingly slow if you are a middle school teacher! The behaviors can range from extreme apathy to downright defiance ... kids will push and push and push boundaries this time of year! 

Some folks I've talked to don't do anything different, their lesson plans stay on course and there are no extra measures in place for dealing with behavior. At my school, however, I usually need to make some kind of survival plan! I am writing this post for future reference, a "note to self," and I would LOVE to know how other teachers deal with the increase in misbehavior right before a holiday! What are your tips and tricks?

Here is an article I wrote in 2015 - you would think I should have this classroom management thing down by now, wouldn't you? ... Surviving Middle School Until Spring Break

This year was tough, and I mean REALLY difficult. I learned several lessons in classroom management, and was reminded of a few things that slipped by the wayside in my personal classroom management plan. 

I thought I had a pretty good survival plan in place. We were doing fun art projects, so I knew the kids were motivated to stay on task. I was consistently holding kids accountable, not ignoring misbehavior but dealing with it when it came up. I was following my classroom management plan and we even reviewed the rules and expectations, line by line. I had the alternative assignment out in plain sight to remind kids to behave. I was bound and determined to have fun, to be patient with my students, to keep a positive attitude, and to smile! 

However, In the last several weeks before Spring Break, there were daily incidents that I had to deal with - some days I felt like I was living in the book, The Lord of the Flies! A few students were defiant. I had to break up fights in the hallways. I had to repeat instructions endlessly because kids were inattentive. One afternoon, a student repeatedly defied my instructions to remain seated. When I handed him the discipline form at the end of class, he loudly stated, "I ain't signing that! I TOLD you why I got up!" I didn't say a word, I just wrote, "refused to sign" on the form and contacted the parent later that afternoon. 

I once found an old newspaper comic about a scene in hell (the art teacher preceding me had it taped to the back of a bookshelf...hmmm!) In the drawing, an elderly lady walks by, contentedly whistling, while two horned devils watch her. One says, "We'll never get to her - she was a middle school teacher!"

I did a decent job of remaining calm all the way up until the very last day before Spring Break. That day, a few students pretty much lost their minds! I can deal with misbehavior, with backtalk, with emotional kids, but when they are absolutely defiant and refuse to accept accountability, I have a hard time with that! 

The VERY FIRST CLASS of 7th graders proved that they couldn't be trusted to control themselves and I wound up dealing with an "almost" fight. This was normally a responsible, mature group, and I told them that I didn't just let any old class use printing supplies the day before Spring Break. I thought I could trust them! At the end of class, during clean-up, one student got mad at a friend and forcefully threw a wadded up, wet paper towel, smacking the other student in the neck. At that point, I knew I had to change my plans. For the rest of the day, there were zero art supplies available except pencils and paper! Luckily, I had a series of printmaking videos I collected last year for students to view and write responses to. 

The last day before Spring Break there are certain middle school students who believe they can pretty much do what they want and say what they want, and the school can't really do anything about it! Therefore, I had some major discipline problems on my hands due to two 7th grade boys who acted up, then walked away from me when I tried to hold them accountable, and basically laughed in my face. 

I had to ask administration for back-up that day because of extreme defiance! 

Here are the top 3 strategies on my survival list for next year, along with "warnings to self!"

1. Mindset, mindset, mindset! "DECIDE FIRST" 

My thought patterns fell into a trap this year, one of complaining about student behavior. I KNOW what a mistake it is to complain out loud, but I was doing it silently, which is just as bad...

"Why can't kids just act right?"
"I can't BELIEVE the stupid things these kids do. What are they THINKING?" 
"You little .....! Now I have to deal with (fill in the blank)."

Because of this negative mindset, I wound up making classroom management mistake #1: NEVER LOSE YOUR TEMPER. (Upset = weakness, calm = strength!) It was really making me mad to have to deal with all the extra misbehavior. I had a "Why, me?" mindset and didn't even realize it. 

Next time, I plan to practice thinking positive thoughts each morning before school starts. Michael Linsin recommends that teachers do what Olympic athletes do, "Decide First," which means that you decide ahead of time that no matter what happens, you will remain calm.

2. Choose the lesson plan wisely. For some unknown reason, the last day before Spring Break I planned on having students finish up art projects, which involved printing ink, brayers, lots of newspaper and old magazines, paper towels, paints, aluminum foil, metallic markers, glue, etc. Ummm, nope! What was I thinking? This was an utter failure and I realized it a little too late for that first class of students! 

From now on, the last day or two before this particular holiday I plan on having zero art supplies out except pencil and paper. The less supplies there are available, the fewer opportunities to throw, vandalize, or destroy! I love my students, don't get me wrong! However, they don't make very good decisions sometimes, especially right before Spring Break. I simply don't want to make things harder for them and for me. Hopefully, next year will prove to be a better year. 

3. Rewards "work" better than punishments this time of year.

Part of my survival plan before Spring Break is to have a discipline assignment out in plain sight, with a note on the board that says, "Any student who is disrespectful or irresponsible will work on the discipline assignment instead of painting or printing." It usually works like a charm, because the majority of the kids are pretty motivated to make art! However, there are still a few kids who could care less about art and refuse to comply, no matter what I do. For these students, rewards can help motivate them to behave. Getting to sit with their friends, Tootsie Rolls (no chocolate or nuts for allergy sensitive kids), and small prizes are golden! (For those of you who are philosophically opposed to extrinsic motivators, what do you recommend as alternatives?)

Further Online Resources:

What is your survival plan for Spring Break? Are there any strategies you only use during this unique time of year, to help the kids keep up the pace in their learning?  

Classroom management, is after all simply what we do to create an environment conducive to student success. How can we help them succeed, even when they have abandoned all sense of self control? 

Update (March 28, 2017)

I asked this question in the Art Teachers Facebook group, creating a poll in order to glean some answers. I strongly believe in "group wisdom!" Around 70 art teachers responded with the strategies they found most important. Surprisingly, 21 teachers said they don't do anything different right before Spring Break, that it is unnecessary! Other teachers recommended various strategies from getting out calming materials (weaving/fiber arts), or stepping up the positive reinforcements:

Which is the most important strategy you have found for surviving all that spring chaos? At my middle school, there was a surprising upsurge in defiance and mayhem in the weeks before Spring Break this year and I am looking for answers!

Wise advice from an anonymous high school teacher: 

"I sit with them, ask about how they are dealing with the stress of the last 9 weeks, make sure they've eaten, and smile. A lot. When kids DO have a hard time paying attention, I ignore it and come back to them later. Did they get the big points that we covered? Are they preoccupied with something bigger than my class? Accusations and my frustration with them never helps. But talking with them the way I'd talk to a peer usually helps a lot. I also teach high school, but the sap is rising. We just had prom and they are ready to graduate or start summer break, or just be out of the classroom."

More wise advice from elementary art teacher, Amanda Miller:

"Be clear and positively reinforce good behavior. That could be as simple as calling by name the students who are working quietly or who are actually cleaning up when you ask them to start cleaning. I find the more positive I am towards the students the better behaved they are..... mostly. Also maybe change up your reward system. I've started giving kids glitter hand sanitizer on the way out the door. It doesn't leave glitter on the floor, the kids think it's cool and it's something that's just a little different from anything else they get at school. I usually pick two of my four and they get to pick which one they want. I'm in elementary but I swear that glitter is universal for kids. I also scented these with essential oils so it's a multi sensory experience." Amanda Miller

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols


CRAZY SCHEDULE DURING THE HOLIDAYS? Here is what I do the last week or so of school:

The winter holidays are quickly approaching, and I am brainstorming ways to keep my middle school kiddos busy in the coming weeks. Semester exams start this week, which means that all their assignments have been completed and we will have some "down time." Exams will be every day for nearly a week, with a "make-up" day scheduled for the last day of school, December 20. The last few days of the semester will see fewer and fewer students who show up. After their exams in the morning, many kids check out and the afternoon classes are constantly interrupted with school-wide intercom announcements, "So and so is checking out!" There is no way to have any quality structured learning time, so here is what I am planning for the last week and a half:

1. Reflection & Art Class Survey: I like the kids to reflect on their time in Art class and I give them a chance to assess the class itself. I hand out Reflection Sheets with a Survey on the back. They are asked which projects they enjoyed the most and why, and which projects didn't turn out as well (and why!) Which ones were the most challenging, what problems had to be solved, etc. The Art Class Survey asks, "What is one thing you would keep about the class? What is one thing you would change about the class? Would you recommend this class to a friend?" etc. (My 6th and 7th graders will rotate to a new elective in January, so December is their last month with me.)

Tacky Art Trophy with palette base
2. "Art Jeopardy:" The day before the kids take their exam, we will play this game. The table groups compete for small prizes while answering review questions. A student volunteer keeps score on the board and calls out questions. The questions come straight off of their semester exam study guide. I like to do a "speed round" or a "Final Jeopardy" question worth five points, just to keep it interesting! I am trying out a Tacky Art Trophy for kids to pose with if their table group wins! They think it's a hoot!

3. Scrub down the classroom! Selected student helpers will be working to assist me in cleaning up and organization. This work will be taking place every day during exams. Only two exams are scheduled each day next week, so what will the other classes do? They will choose one of the activities from #5 (see below) or they will help me clean. Some kids really, really like to clean! Go figure! 

4. Contest: This year, we will have a "Make-Off" competition, thanks to an idea from this video from Michael's Arts and Crafts store. Disclaimer: a contest will be guaranteed to get kids excited and I do NOT recommend this be done the last day or two before the break. I plan on doing this on the day of their exams, after the kids are finished testing. I like my middle school kids to be   c   a   l   m  .  

5. Activity Stations: (these will be closed on the last two days, Dec. 19 & 20, due to the kids' lack of motivation to leave them neat... I have learned the hard way not to do anything that requires any type of clean-up right before a holiday 😜!)

*Lego Building Station - Table One

*Ornament or Card Construction - Table Two ... this is the only really messy station and can be quickly cleaned up. I have markers, ornament blanks, blank paper, stencils, and texture sheets for kids to use at this table. If I am feeling very, very brave, I will have glue and a glitter bucket for kids to dip ornaments in. This requires very close supervision, however! 

*Puzzles/Games such as art related jigsaw puzzles or "Pictionary" - Table Three

*Drawing with "How To" drawing books on Table Four

*Art Appreciation Activities a' la Maggie Moschell on the Art Teachers Facebook Group ... I requested the digital version of her handouts which consist of around 40 full color pages of artists and their work, complete with student friendly biographies and an activity sheet. 

6. Videos: The last two days before the holiday there will be zero art supplies out except for paper! I will give kids the choice to watch the video and/or draw. I have handouts with tons of drawing prompts for kids who would like to draw. Click on the above link for an extensive list of videos. (I am very fortunate to have Internet access and a digital projector!) Below are the video clips I plan on showing the last two days:

Art For Kids Hub, by Rob Jensen...this will be good for 6th and 7th graders to draw along with the artist. 
PBS - Castle - David Macaulay, Youtube (this is about an hour long)

8th graders will be watching these: 

A word about discipline: 
My students know that if they act up there will be a consequence. I have several ready-made discipline assignments that I will quickly hand out if I see them horseplay, throw paper, or in any way abuse supplies. For some reason (a few) kids are more tempted to abandon all sense of self control right before a holiday - perhaps they think that teachers are too tired to hold them accountable and will relax the rules? Not so, my friend, not so! This time of the year, right before Spring Break, or the very last week of school is when I write the "Alternative Assignment" on the board. Kids can choose to do something fun, or they can choose the dreaded "Alternative Assignment." It's up to them! 

Further Resources & Ideas:

photo credit: Jamie Hyche Kolb
This awesome idea for using up wrapping paper scraps is from Jamie Hyche Kolb: "Have parents save the sample sheets from wrapping paper fundraiser catalogs. My students love mixing them with fun add-ons to create holiday miniatures. I give them glue, scissors, a small piece of mat board (4x6) and set them free with their imaginations! These were made by my second graders. The only parameter I gave them was to consider a subject that reflects on what their family celebrates in December. I love seeing what they come up with!"

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

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols