Year 1 - 7 | Age 5 - 13 | 1 Class
Whether you’re a new teacher or a seasoned one, the first day of school is always one day us teachers put this most thought into. So many things to assess and think about. Here are some quick and easy ideas to start your new year off to a great start! What to do as soon as you open your doors:
Greet the children with a smile as they walk in to the classroom. Quietly stand at the front of the room with a friendly face until they have found a seat and have stopped talking. This immediately allows them to become aware of your demeanour and their own behaviour.
In a low speaking voice, welcome the children and let them see how excited you are to start a year of art with them.
Introduce any new children, before explaining your class rules - but keep it brief! No one wants to hear you drone on for ages about your rules. Chances are they’ve been sitting through rules all day long already in other classes. Now’s your chance to show them right away that art class is a great place to relax and let loose. Set the rest of your expectations by demonstrating your rules during the class time.
Get stuck into a lesson right away! Present your idea, let them know where they can find materials, and demo the procedure if necessary.
While they are working away... this is a prime opportunity to observe all the students before making any seating arrangements.
General Class Rules - Perhaps you have your own, here are mine:
Have fun exploring the art we make and remember to turn your creativity on at the door
Try your best even if you don’t usually like art
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you never know what it might turn into
When I clap my hands... (or whatever your thing is) - that means, STOP, LOOK & LISTEN
You are free to talk to each other with indoor voices, but never while I’m talking.
Help each other - to come up with ideas, to find courage, to clean up, etc
My 10 Favourite First Day Activities
Pass the Pen - A great ice breaker and collaborative group activity.
Make and Decorate a Portfolio - Using 2 pieces of A2 paper, either you or them can staple the sheets together before decorating it with their names and different motifs that represent them. Tip! Use a different colour paper for each year group or class. This helps the kids throughout the year to know their designated colour to put completed projects and gets you organised right off the bat.
Name Tags for their Desks, Lockers, or Drawers - Try their hand at designing their own font and write their name on a sheet of card stock and decorate.
Tissue Paper Flower Pictures - Get all your unused tissue paper scraps from last year and direct them to only use the paper to create a picture. I find that given simple imagery like flowers is great. No drawing or pre-planning. Just cut and stick relevant shapes to create your ideas.
Self Portraits - With minimal instructions let them draw themselves or a partner. This way you can take mental notes of who already understands portraiture, their drawing skills etc. It’s also a great before and after marker when you assess their skill development by the end of the year. They love seeing how far they’ve come too.
Mystery Drawings with younger kids - Really any primary kid loves these, Just keep the image in your mind and draw it step by step on the board while they follow along. The kids have no idea what they are drawing and can have fun guessing along the way.
'Pieces Of Me' Activity Sheet - A good little writing activity for when kids are finished early or have some extra time before the end of class. You can either get them to fill it out themselves, or let them select a partner to fill out each others. This sheet is a great way help you get to know a bit more about your students.
Contour Line Drawings of each other - a fun little ice breaker, that you can demonstrate on someone. In one continuous line, draw the persons face and shoulders. Fill in the gaps and spaces with fun colours.
Colour, cut and copy sheets for the younger children. - Using these print outs get your Kindergarten/Year 1’s to colour the shapes in, cut them out, stick them into their sketchbooks, and try to copy the same shapes by drawing them on the page next to it. This gives you some insight into their motor skills, and you can assess the ways they approach drawing objects to scale, colouring in, and sticking skills.
Artist Interviews of each other - another great ice breaker. They go around interviewing each other to find out different things about their class mates, like their favourite colours or favourite type of art.
Why not mix it up?
You may even choose to make table stations with a small variety of projects. When kids finish one activity they can go to another table to complete another activity. Although this may be harder to track and assess kids art skills as they work, it will help the kids see right away that there is so much fun to be had in art class this year.
Be sure to give your students adequate time to get the classroom all cleaned up. Use this time to demonstrate your clean up procedures and expectations.
The idea here is to keep it simple!
I personally don’t like to take the paints out on the first day, because I find that a lot of kids don’t really know how to respect the paints yet. It can take a good amount of time to demo how to use the brush correctly, how much paint to use, how to clean the brush, mix colours, and clean up afterwards.
Instead, get them to use simple, easy to clear away materials like coloured pencils, crayons, oil pastels, or even some collage.
While they work, use this time to see how they interact with one another, and take notes for seating arrangements. With these projects you can quickly assess where student's skills are sitting, and areas of difficulty or general engagement with the project.
I hope these ideas help you to have a seamless first day with your new art class!