Your art demo is a vital part of every art lesson you teach. It’s your chance to not only teach a process or technique but also to communicate your expectations about the project.
Done successfully, an art demo is engaging, informative, and motivating. It’s a great feeling to “nail” your demo! But occasionally, despite our best intentions, a demo will end in disaster.
Maybe the process didn’t go quite as you imagined it would. Or, you omitted a key detail students really needed to see or hear. Maybe you failed to catch a misunderstanding that left students confused or pointed them in the wrong direction. As a result, valuable time was lost and the enthusiastic start you had hoped for was gone. Your students missed receiving all the benefits your demo was meant to offer.
Your art demo doesn’t have to end in disaster…
Your next art demo, and every demo, can avoid this fate. By following the steps below, you can deliver a successful demo every time. You just need to prepare in advance, teach kids what they need to know and finish strong.
1. Prepare in advance
A big part of being prepared is doing the project first yourself. Don’t skip this step. Make a quick sample for yourself even if you think a project is so simple you don’t need to.
Making a sample is helpful in many ways. It will remind you of all the materials you’ll need and how to sequence your steps. It will also help you remember any specific techniques or things you want to be sure to tell your students. Make some notes if you need to.
Before beginning your art demo, have your supplies ready, as well as any examples or other supporting material. Have a “hook” in mind that you can reel kids in with. This can be a story about the artist or culture you’re learning about or an inspiring example for motivation.
2. Teach kids what they need to know
What will kids need to know to be successful with this project? First of all, they need to know what you expect of them.
Be clear about the behavior you expect. It’s worth repeating even if you think they should know it by now! And be clear about what students will need to have accomplished by the end of the class period.
Next, teach them any techniques they’ll be using. If they’ve worked with this medium before, a quick reminder of key points will be helpful.
Then, take them step-by-step through the project, to the point where they will either finish or stop for the day. You don’t need to complete a project in your demo. But your demo should address each of the steps they’ll be working on that day.
Share your thoughts
As you go through each step, verbalize your thought process. This is helpful for two reasons. First, it models your thinking and decision-making for kids. Let students hear how you “talk to yourself” as you work. This helps kids learn the kinds of choices they should be thinking about in their own work.
In addition to modeling your thinking, verbalizing your thought process keeps students’ attention focused on you. If you have periods of silence during your demo, kids can get distracted and lose interest in what you’re doing. Instead, keep giving them helpful information the entire time. Then, if you sense their attention starting to fade, draw them back in with your enthusiasm for what you’re doing.
Also, don’t worry about making mistakes during your demo. Mistakes are not fatal! They actually present a valuable learning opportunity. When you respond to a mistake in a positive way, you’re modeling an essential life skill for kids. Laugh about it along with your students, and talk about what you learned. This will make a lasting impression on your students.
Verbalizing your thought process is a truly effective practice. In fact, it may be the most helpful part of your demo.
3. Finish strong
Finishing strong will set your students up for success. As you end your demo, ask a few key questions to check for understanding.
Next, give any final instructions and check for compliance before students start working. (For example, ask them to take out a pencil and then check to make sure they’ve all done that.)
Finally, put away any examples of finished projects you may have shared to discourage copying and encourage creative thinking.
Your art demos need never to end in disaster. Follow the guidelines above for an effective demo that will get kids off to a strong start. Then your enthusiastic, meaningful feedback will keep them going toward the finish line!
Your enthusiasm will be contagious!
“Oil Pastel Sunflowers Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh” is such a fun project to do with your students. Be sure to demonstrate the technique of layering colors explained in this lesson. Students will mirror your excitement as they watch their colors “pop” when they layer them.
This lesson is a winner every time – each finished project is charming, unique, and full of personality. You can download this lesson for free here.
an inspiring quote
“Learning is the difficult work of experiencing incompetence on our way to mastery.”
~ Seth Godin
We never said it was easy! The struggle students go through to learn a new skill, technique or concept can be frustrating and discouraging at times. As they say, “The struggle is real.”
It can help to share some of our own struggles with learning new things. This lets kids know their frustrations are normal. We can all benefit by working hard and not giving up when we encounter challenges.