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Art Activities and Learning Centers
This page is intended as a page for ideas to answer the question, "What should my students do when they finish early?" When students finish a project before the rest of the class, they have to be busy or you may begin having discipline problems.
As an elementary art teacher, I created learning centers when students finished early. For one center I took a 2X3 foot framed chalkboard and painted famous works of art on them. I left key areas black for students to fill in with colored chalk. For example, I left the head off Mona Lisa. Students could then come up with their own head. Another center was an origami center. I laminated visual instructions for creating a shape and students cut and folded colored paper. I also had a "How to Draw" set of books that students could take to their seats and follow. I tried to have up to 10 centers in the room. Students automatically knew that they could not go to a center until I declared their art finished. This is important because many of your students will rush their art just to get to a center.
As a high school teacher, I kept a collection of short lessons that students could pick up to complete. Because high school students won't do work unless they think it is worth their time, I gave extra credit for these. However, they had to have all their other projects completed before doing this work.
If you are an elementary art teacher, it is inevitable that a regular classroom teacher and/or the principal will ask you to give your students a holiday lesson. They may ask you to have students make Valentine cards, for example. The first impulse is to glare at them. However, there is a way to create a holiday project that is challenging to students. Following are short descriptions of holiday activities:
Also- create your own Saint Valentine painting. Paint it with a small brush on a card.
Art production- Create a mural of Martin Luther King using dominos. Just follow the instructions by artist Robert Bosch [Archive]. (Martin Luther King Day)
For presidents day, draw or paint a large version of the dollar bill (it must be much larger than the real bill so you avoid any question of violating counterfeiting laws. Replace the current Washington image with one of many other images.
Use Norman Rockwell's painting "Freedom From Want" and copy it using alternate characters. You can do a collage or as in the sample [Archive], use cartoon characters.
If you have a few computers in your room, you can also allow students to do activities there. In the mid-90's, Kid Pix
was a favorite activity for students (And still available as you can see). If you are an elementary teacher and have KidPix, here is a list of activities [Archive] you can do. Believe it or not, but you can now integrate KidPix with an iPad or iPod. Depending on the age of your students, there are many different software packages to choose from.
A good activity for high school (and possibly middle school) level students is to create their own art-related web page. If you don't have a server for them to place their work, there are many free hosting websites available. This page hasn't been updated in years so don't be surprised if some links don't work. Don't forget to check your own internet provider. Many times they provide free web space for you. Speak with your technology coordinator if they have these sites blocked. Many times they will unblock sites when you ask.
One of the problems a teacher has is finding appropriate movies to show in class. You can find appropriate DVD's and videos at KB Toys (No longer in business. Toys R Us bought them out). You can search by student age, price, and brand. You can play animated movies at the end of an cartooning/animation unit. You can find animations such as The Incredibles, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek. You can also use these as incentives for good behavior.
Your students can create web page cheap. You can download for free one of the easiest web page programs called Composer. Composer is part of a suite of tools called Seamonkey. You can create web images using freeware or shareware art programs. You can see a list of free software in the "Free Things" section.
You can also have your students work on projects using ThinkQuest [Archive] for ideas. It's a shame this site has vanished but you can get ideas for other websites or competitions by clicking on their archives by year. An example is this Van Gogh project [Archive].
There is nothing like a group of art teachers getting together to brainstorm ideas for short lessons, activities, and learning centers. I was lucky to be a part of such a group and we came up with almost 100 ideas. If your district has some professional development time and you are allowed to work in your building, ask your principal if you can get together with the other art teachers in the district that day. It is difficult for art teachers on these days because frequently the professional development is geared to a teach of a "core" subject.
Finally, do a search on the internet for ideas. You will come up with thousands of results. The only problem is wading through all the information.