Here are some ideas that might help. We have all been there! 

1. Distribute paint yourself; don't allow the students to pour at all.

2. Teach, re-teach, and teach them again about routines and procedures - they have to practice, practice, practice before learning it and they need reminders!
Paint Routines You'll Never Regret Teaching, by Alecia Eggers at
How To Turn Your Students Into Neat Freaks, by Jennifer Borel at

3. Use disposable palettes - magazine pages, paper plates, wax paper, and newspaper ads work great! Also, if you have them you can use Ziplock bags (gallon size) to store paper plates overnight. Dick Blick sells a "Sta-Wet" palette, but you could design your own with lidded plastic Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers, wet paper towels, and wax paper! 

4. Use plastic ketchup bottles with small nozzles which make it really hard to squeeze out a lot of paint!

5. Use a Sharpie marker to draw little circles the size you want their paint onto their palettes, if they get too much paint, make them put some of it back into the container with a plastic spoon/popsicle stick OR tell them to use "dime" sized amounts, "pea" sized amounts, or "Skittles" or "Starburst" sized amounts. Kids who have to take the time to put the paint back will think twice about pouring too much next time!

6. Write their names on the palettes so you know who just dumped the dirty palette overflowing with paint into the sink OR number the palettes, keeping a master list of which kid has which number... you can have them check out a palette like they are checking out a library book! 

7. Use Glad "Press N Seal" plastic wrap to preserve the paint from day to day

8. Make the students use up all their paint on the palette before they get more

9. Use condiment cups with caps to save paint from day to day OR styrofoam egg cartons placed into a lidded bin for overnight storage. 31 Genius Hacks For Your Elementary Art Classroom

10. Hold them accountable with a consequence when they refuse to take care of supplies: if groups of students are being disrespectful the teacher is well within his/her rights to take painting privileges away and make the students write about painting for a day or two (or more). Discipline Assignments For Art

11. For middle/high school, assign a grade for studio habits, caring for materials, tool usage, organization, and keeping tools clean.

12. Have only certain colors available at each table, the kids have to move to another table to get a new color; Paintbrush Care and Practical Tips For Easy Painting Cleanup, by Phyllis L. Brown, "There's A Dragon In My Art Room" 

13. Place a second plate on top of the first and put the whole thing inside a Ziplock bag to keep the paint fresh until the next day.

14. Use up the leftover paint - can be painted on paper for collages later. 

15. Use the palette with too much paint as a non-example - take a photo or let the paint dry on it and hang on the wall. 

Editor's note: Managing student behavior involves far more than discipline techniques. In order to create an environment for student success, the teacher needs to provide quality instruction as well as appropriate motivation. Most importantly, the teacher needs to have the right attitude for leadership in the classroom. Finally, having a solid classroom management plan with rules and procedures set up from the beginning of the year is also extremely important - students need to be very clear about what the teacher's expectations are.

disclaimer: These are a set of ideas about being proactive in teaching based on classroom experience as well as various education authors. Many times there are circumstances in the classroom that are beyond any teacher's control, especially when serving at-risk populations or in environments where those in administration fail to provide effective leadership in a school. Sometimes, regardless of the prevailing theories about teacher responsibility, the teacher is not to be blamed for out of control students. Finally, we do NOT recommend that you put any of these strategies into practice if your administration disagrees with them. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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