Warm-up Lists and Activities

warm-up runnersSubmitted by Becky Aranyi (see note)

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

  • Draw a mechanical object

  • Word picture: select a word that brings to mind a mental picture, Draw the word as the shape of the object. Such as the word apple in the shape of an apple, or apples spelling out the word.

  • Draw popcorn

  • Keyhole: what would you see through a key hole

  • Select an above or below point of view in a specific area (your room, kitchen, bathroom, outside, in a car, etc. Complete this drawing paying attention to details. You may complete the drawing in pencil, colored pencil, pen, etc.

  • Choose a portion of a magazine or newspaper picture. Glue that picture on a page in your sketchbook. Create a drawing that incorporates that picture into a story. You may use more than one magazine or newspaper image BUT the artwork should be made mainly from your added drawings. This artwork should span 2 pages. You may use color or shading. OR you could use a color scheme (monochromatic, etc.)

  • Choose an enclosed space- a kitchen cabinet, a television, an oven, a refrigerator, in a drawer or closet. What human qualities do the objects in the enclosed space assume when no one is watching? Do the mustard bottles dance? Do the socks play cards? This can be one page with details…be sure and show the interior of the space as well as the objects.

  • Draw an animal turning into a household object.

  • If you got a holiday card from one of these artists what would it look like? Pablo Picasso, Berthe Morisot, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo

  • Arrange three related objects (3 kitchen items, 3 shoes, sports equipment, etc.) into a composition. Draw on one page using a light source and shading

  • Create an image using only found images (from magazines, newspapers, worksheets, etc.) The image should communicate a message or tell a story

  • Practice drawing anything from observation- the most common things is good practice

  • Look at yourself in a spoon- draw the distorted image

  • What happens when a 6-foot tall squirrel shows up in your yard?

  • Identify an object that relates to your identity. Create an artwork that uses the image of that object (or the actual object) as the SINGLE FOCUS of the artwork. Open media.

  • Fill in the blank… "I am a _________ in this world." Use the text of the completed sentence to inform the artwork. Open Media. This should be a 2 page spread

  • Answer these questions with an image: At age six I was ________, At age twelve I was _______, Now I am ________, At age 25 I will be ______, At age 75 I will be ______

  • Arrange these images in a composition that communicates your identity. Open media. Should span at least 4 pages in some order that communicates the answers to the questions.

  • Illustrate a dream you have had using only 5 symbols (single images that communicate ideas) this may take one or two pages. You may use color or black and white to complete the image. Consider what you know about composition, emphasis, etc. as you build the images.

  • Make a detailed drawing of your hand holding something related to the fall season OR related to school. Make the drawing large enough that it touches all the edges of the page. You may add color or use shading

  • Your choice- create a one or two page drawing that demonstrates several of your strongest art skills. This is your chance to create your own assignment as many of you have requested,

  • What does the holiday season really mean to you? Your image can be abstract or realistic; you may choose the media. AVOID common images- meaning if you choose to show holiday gifts- SHOW THEM IN A CREATIVE WAY!

  • Create a design using elements from magazine or newspaper images. Cut and paste the images onto the page in your sketchbook to create the design.

  • Practice observational drawing skills by drawing from the following list: Shoes, Corner of a room in your house, Create an arrangement of objects, use a lamp or other light to make dramatic shadows, your pet, Creative views of your car, bicycle, skateboard, etc., Make the image reach all the way to the edges of the page. Demonstrate what you know about point of view, emphasis, composition, positive and negative space, etc.

  • What would you see if you grew wings and flew over our town?

  • What if your big toe became its own person?

  • What if you suddenly became very, very small?

  • Draw a vase and a beautiful arrangement of flowers

  • Draw a picture of the inside of your stomach and the food in it after a big meal

  • Draw your idea of Paradise (Happy Place)

  • If animals could draw, what would their artwork look like? Draw their artwork.

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.