Warm-up Lists and Activities

warm-up runnersSubmitted by Becky Aranyi (see note)

You also might like the page on bellringers!
Warm Up List

  • Collections of objects: toys, books (opened, closed, stacked), kitchen utensils, art materials, contrasting texture items, knick-knack collections, crumpled paper bags, still-lifes of fruit or vegetables, clothing hung from hooks or chair backs, assorted balls, a collection of cans from the pantry or shampoo bottles from the shower. Stacks of shoes. Old hats. Spools of Thread..

  • Fantasy art: mythological interpretations, invented creatures from actual live creatures, fables and fairy tales.

  • Story illustrations: for stories they've read or written. To redo those they don't like, or to emulate or reinterpret those they do like.

  • Portraiture. Figures. Animals. Transportation forms. Functional object design, such as the book bag or wind suit they'd like to have.

  • Lautrec of the 90's poster designs for an event they are involved in. Formulate an

  • bookmarks for the school library

  • junk food with wrapper

  • part of a vehicle

  • instead of a hand... your foot ( no socks or shoe)

  • something not pretty (one of the 8th grades faves)

  • an interior of something (once a student did the inside of a jar of peanut butter)

  • inside of closet

  • 3 unlikely objects together

  • part of any object ( mystery draw)

  • a scene that depicts peace

  • Illustrate your favorite poem

  • Draw the contents of a trash can

  • Drawing of a house plant (real or artificial)

  • Draw an object with a surface texture.

  • Draw tools used in certain professions

  • Draw a tennis shoe

  • Draw your favorite shoe

  • draw a grouping of leaves

  • Draw something you might find in a department store display

  • Draw a large jar and fill it up with something (candy, toys, rock, etc)

  • Design a school desk

  • Draw your favorite snack food

  • Draw an object melting

  • Draw a bowl of fruit, shade it.

  • Draw hands holding something

  • Draw a mechanical object

NOTE: This list comes from a number of sources. Some of these ideas are Becky’s own, some come from members of Art Education list serve, some come from Internet resources. Publishing to the Web is not intended to violate anyone’s copyright to his/her published lists. If you see your original ideas here and wish to be properly credited, please send me an e-mail. Of course, I will remove your original ideas if requested to do so. I was originally planning to remove this list from the site so I would not be violating anyone’s copyright, but after I received this excellent suggestion from Marvin Bartel, I decided it should remain.


From Marvin Bartel (Getty TeacherArtExchange, February 11, 2007)

Thank you. This is a great warm-up list. I believe that using a regular warm-up ritual (starting every period with a brief warm-up) can be an extremely helpful and possibly a way to automatically get students settled and on-task. It can give the teacher time to check attendance and get prepared and psyched for the main agenda.


Would it be helpful if our shared lists of warm-ups would be categorized according to various learning goals? Might this help teachers fill voids in learning and thinking modes being taught in our art classes?


The list has many great thinking ideas to practice using the IMAGINATION, some require MEMORY OF EXPERIENCE, very few are based on OBSERVATION practice. Does this say something about our prevalent art teaching practices?


Do any art teachers use categories of ACCIDENTS and Choice Making, or MISTAKES as new Idea Development as warm ups? Most of the ideas on the list use DRAWING. Could teachers share their CLAY or COLLAGE warm-ups? What other media and art process warm-up categories do (or could) teachers use? Anybody use MEDITATION (or use a word like QUIET-DREAM-TIME that is politically less loaded)? Does anybody teach LIST MAKING as a warm up? What kind of lists? Are there any studies of what professional artists do to prepare their minds or to find their muse? As artist-teachers, what do we ourselves do?


If the warm-up is a regular ritual, how can it be established as an automatic class starting expectation? Does it work to post instructions with supplies placed where they are picked up on the way into the room? Does the class begin in a quiet and studious way? Do students save work in individual warm-up portfolios (providing a longitudinal growth record)?


This site includes more ideas and rationale for warm-up rituals.

This warm-up uses list making, clay, and drawing.

A few other ideas described.
Marvin Bartel
Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College
"Art is me when I am myself..." a kindergarten girl when asked, "What is art?"

"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before..." a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time. Warm-ups can provide first-time experience as PRACTICE eliminating fear of failure.


Suggestion from Gerald Rojek

I've used to do a 5 minute warm exercise called Draw Now when I used to teach H.S. I found it was very effective for getting students on task. Plus it was useful to help students develop a project over time. For example, I had students develop characters for their comics through the warm exercises then return to them later for graphic revisions, narrative expansion and character development. They loved being able to return to their own work to develop new work from and it makes the teaching much more concrete and explicit. Now I do warm up exercises of short duration with my college and adult students too. It helps the students focus and avoid trying to analyze and create at the same time.


I think it could easily be done with clay, model making, project proposals, creativity exercises and even constructing rubrics.


Suggestion from Diane Davis:

My warm up activities start with journaling. Everyday students come in and have to answer a question on the board. They have five minutes a day, and two days to work on the same question. Some of the questions were posted here some time ago, under aesthetic questions.


They were things like:
Can an object be considered a work of art today if it was not a work of art when it was created? Must art be made by hand? Must art communicate something? Must art be beautiful? Who has the authority to say what is good or bad art?


Other questions I take right out of my curriculum:

How does technology affect the way we make our art? Does where we live effect how we make art? How do you tell stories without words?


Other questions were based on things I heard in the news:

Should the Greeks be given back the Pantheon art taken from them in the early 1800's? "We want our marbles back" Should neighbors have a say in the kind of art you put on your front lawn?(the resale rates are going down" Are "The Gates" that were put in NY city, art? Are the cows that are painted by different companies, organizations and posed around the city, art?


Other questions are built around the seasons: What would you give as a Christmas gift to the Mesopotamians? What color would you say Christmas is, if you couldn't use red or green? What color is hope?


And some are just spontaneous: If I picked up this driftwood off the beach, put a price tag on it and put it in an art gallery, is it art? Respond to this quote by Pablo Picasso: Is art made by a four year old better or worse than art made by someone who says they are an artist, but has never had formal training?


They've been a lot of fun. I'm now using words from standardized testing to make sure kids are learning how to respond in specific ways. I ask questions with these words in them: Contrast, Compare, Explain, Support, Formulate, Evaluate, Analyze, Predict.


Suggestion from Barb Yaloff

I sometimes gave out materials with a random shape and the kids have to think what the shape could possibly be, and they could turn it at all angles. Sometimes paper, or pieces of scrap wood or foam core board, even that thin foam that comes in colors. They get all excited, and it absolutely translates into their work- for instance a drop of ink that fell is no longer a disaster... what does it look like? What could it be in this picture? or shapes that become cartoon heads and bodies... the kids see and point out to each other where the ear is, where the eye is, etc. and the others say "yes I see that now that you point that out." It's an enlightening experience and before long you do not have to instigate it; they do.


Suggestions from Judith Stenger

For Middle School--- I sometimes use warm up questions-- many from the book "Thinking through Aesthetics," which I project so the kids can come in and get started. They write in their art journals. After they write, they discuss at their tables, then have a spokesperson share with the class. This is when I get out the microphone. Not necessary, of course, but it does help the other kids to focus on the speaker. I have an inexpensive microphone, which makes their pronouncements VERY important.


I find they are even more engaged if I project a painting or other work of art ( you could use a large print) and ask the questions (from ARTFUL THINKING website), I see... I think... I wonder... or: If this is the beginning of the story, write what happens next. If this is the middle of the story, what do you think happened before and after? If you think this is the end of the story, write the beginning and middle.


Often, I will stand outside the door and hand them the questions as they come in. These are also discussed, shared, and saved in their art journals.


We are on an AB block, so I don't mind taking a few minutes of an 85-minute class to spend on this. I think it has real value as higher order thinking.