This page is relatively brief due to the fact that we do not believe we need to tell teachers how to teach. We get enough pedagogy in college as well as in professional development at the local level. 

However, to get really good at something, we practice. 
Never stop learning! 

EXPERT POWER = professional knowledge

  When students respect the teacher for the knowledge she possesses, when they master significant knowledge and skills, and when they feel good about themselves because they are achieving, they are less likely to misbehave.”   
Dr. Irvin King 

Many times in my middle school classroom, the kids look at me with new respect after a painting or drawing demonstration. They are in awe that their teacher is a “real” artist! I have heard it said many times that effective instruction will take care of most discipline problems; if students are engaged they don’t have as much opportunity to misbehave. . .

This may be true, but in an art classroom the teacher must also have a rock-solid classroom management planorganized classroom, and smooth procedures. 

Frankly, no matter how exciting the lesson or sophisticated the artist/teacher happens to be, if kids will not settle down long enough to listen, no learning can take place. 

However, there are many things that a teacher can do to get and keep the students' attention and respect

This page is a collection of research-based instructional strategies that have worked for me - some I knew intuitively as a new teacher, some I learned the hard way, and some I have recently read about in my research.   

  • First, what does quality instruction look like? 
  • Second, what are practical strategies to practice during whole-class instruction, independent work, and transitions
  • Third, why do our students even need instruction in art? (Yes, we need to address this question ... many kids come to our art class thinking that art is just not that important.)
  • Fourth, where can you find a collection of terrific lesson plan ideas?


  • CLEAR – learning objectives and rubrics are not vague: EXAMPLES & NON-EXAMPLES available (click here for assessment examples) At my school, teachers are required to write student-friendly, measurable objectives on the board every single day. What is the learning goal? How will the teacher know if the student learned the skill?
  • RELEVANT – why is this important/meaningful to students? Why do they even need to bother? (See below for reasons why art instruction is important...)
  • RIGOROUS – not too easy, not too hard; “throw a lot at them” so they can experience success. Intrinsic motivation happens when kids succeed – how can we help them achieve?
  • ENGAGING - KEEP STUDENTS BUSY - INTERESTING – there is no such thing as “boring” content, but we can make it boring unintentionally – Michael Linsin says to “SELL IT!” Create a class kids love to come to; use
    story telling and GAMES as well as humor. Also, give students ownership in their work and provide lots of choices for them to express their ideas with the new art skills they are developing. 
  • PLANNED AHEAD  & ORGANIZED – logical, step-by-step, not haphazard 
  • PROMPT FEEDBACK is very important. The kids need to know how well they did! I have a set of ink stamps ("Awesome!," "Star," "Amazing!," etc.) that I use on successful practice work (this is immediate feedback) and I write a detailed rubric for every major art project so there is no mystery about what is expected. During class, sometimes I use a highlighter marker on areas of the rubric that the student still needs to work on. 



  •  Wait until students are quiet and attentive before giving instructions - don't talk over the kids.
  • Give your instruction in a variety of ways so that all the learners understand; visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. Verbally describe what to do, write down instructions step-by-step on the board, demonstrate how to do it, have visual aids for examples (student work, teacher examples, famous works of art, etc.), and even give examples of common mistakes (or "non-examples").
  • Teacher proximity cuts behavior problems way down and encourages students to participate in discussions. If possible, move around the room while you are teaching! You can even use a laser pointer while you are referring to an artwork instead of permanently standing in the front of the room. When you move around, standing by different kids, it encourages them to participate. (Always stand in a place where you can see EVERY student. If you can avoid it, NEVER stand with your back to any student while giving instruction - they all deserve the opportunity to hear what you are saying and you absolutely need to keep a steady eye on them!)
  • “The Power of One” - after the teacher demonstrates s/he asks one student to demonstrate the technique or procedure in front of the whole class. This gives the teacher a chance to test his or her instructions - were they clear enough and was enough information provided for the students to successfully perform the skill?
  • Silent Modeling (non-verbal communication) - students MUST WATCH the teacher for instructions. This is very good practice for the students to be "tuned in" to the teacher. (I learned a big lesson when I lost my voice last year - the kids who suffered from behavior problems had the hardest time being "tuned in" to what I was doing.)
  • “Frame” the directions, be very specific about what the kids are expected to do. For example, if you are leading a discussion and you want the kids to raise their hands before they speak, tell them. If you are reviewing for a test and it is okay if they just call out an answer instead of raising their hands, tell them. (Hold them accountable for following your directions!)
  • Check for understanding - this is a big deal! I like to do the "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" routine. Also, Michael Linsin recommends teachers ask, "Is there anyone who DOES NOT understand what to do?" instead of "Does everyone understand what to do?" before releasing the kids to independent work.
here is a great resource: K20 Center Instructional Strategies


  • Move throughout the room - don't sit at your desk while the kids are working. (Always stand in a place where you can observe the entire class. If you can avoid it, NEVER position yourself with your back to any student or group of students.)
  • Let the kids struggle. Don't immediately dive in to "rescue" the kids who don't seem to know what to do. Watch them to see if they can solve the problem on their own - they should be able to do this if they were listening to you and watching your demonstration! "The road to success is paved with failure..."
  • Fred Jones says: "Viewed up close, it would seem that a great many of the teachers discipline, instruction, and motivation problems derive from the way in which corrective feedback is given during independent work. That raises the question, How, exactly, do you help a student who is stuck? During workshops I will ask trainees if, during their methods courses, they received one minute of input concerning how to help a student who is stuck. No hands go up.
  • "Praise, Prompt, and Leave. For starters, corrective feedback must be brief -- a simple prompt that answers the question, What do I do next? That focuses the students attention, while avoiding cognitive overload. Next, the student must perform the prompt immediately. That avoids forgetting. Then the teacher must leave, because helpless handraisers are experts at wallowing to keep you there. The eternal enemy of brief interactions with help-seekers is teacher verbosity. Only with practice can a teacher reduce the duration of a verbal helping-interaction to its minimum -- about 30 seconds. Reducing a helping-interaction from four-and-a-half minutes to 30 seconds is good, but not good enough. Remember, the teacher loses the class in 10 seconds."


  • Settle students down at the beginning of class - don't let them in the door until they are visibly quiet and calm.
  • Wait until students are quiet and attentive before giving instructions - don't talk over the kids.
  • Attention-getters – counting down, clapping, “May I have your attention?” or teacher raises one hand in the air to get students' attention
  • Use the phrase, “When I say, GO!” to communicate when they need to start the procedure and make the students wait until you are finished giving the instructions.
  • Stand still when giving whole-class instructions for clean-up – body language matters.

       3. WHY IS ART INSTRUCTION                                 NECESSARY? 

We need to teach our students/communities why it is so important that they have art, many come to us thinking art just isn't that important and they don’t have to work hard; there are many advocacy resources online, but here is a basic list of things you can teach your students about why art is important;      
    • Art makes you smarter – it has been proven that kids who have access to arts education have higher IQ scores and score higher on standardized tests! Art class allows you to exercise more parts of your brain than in regular classes (right brain creativity.)  
    • Art can help you learn to communicate in a variety of ways, it is also fun and relaxing. Employers are looking for creative people who “think outside the box” and know how to work collaboratively with other people – you are learning many skills that will help you get a job when you grow up. 
    • Art can help keep you out of trouble – kids who have art classes have lower drop-out rates and discipline problems.  
    • Art skills help hundreds of professionals every day in their jobs – clothing design, graphic design, video game design, etc, etc, mass media and entertainment industry need artists!


    Editor's note: we have focused our efforts to create a classroom management resource on this website, so at the present time we do not have lesson plans. If you are looking for great lesson plan ideas, click on the link above for some terrific websites by art teachers. 

    Video: "What Teachers Make; Poem by Taylor Mali"

    (Quality instruction involves lots of different variables; we have written about  SAVING TIMEFINANCESASSESSMENTSLINEAR PERSPECTIVE - HOW DO YOU TEACH IT?and MATERIALS & CLEAN-UP on other pages. In addition, Lindsay Mouyal has several articles about effective instruction; ART PARODIES and EQUITY STICKS.)

    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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