TIP #60: The Key to Classroom Management for Art Teachers

TIP #60 The Key to Classroom Management for Art Teachers

Ask any teacher about the importance of classroom management, and you’ll likely hear that without it, learning is nearly impossible. So it may surprise you when I say that the key to classroom management for art teachers is all in your head.

You heard that right! The key to classroom management for art teachers has everything to do with the thoughts in your head… and your ability to share those thoughts with your students.

Why does classroom management matter for art teachers?

Good classroom management in any subject enables all students to be engaged, on-task, and doing their best work. Without it, students can lose focus, become distracted, and distract those around them. 

Teaching art involves lots of demonstrating techniques and explaining the steps to projects. You try to give your students all the information they need to be successful. Each detail has an effect on their finished work. You don’t want them to miss any of it, so classroom management for art teachers is essential.

Maybe it’s too much to expect kids to capture every nuance of what you’re teaching them. But each time their attention drifts, the learning stops… for them and often for others as well. It’s worth it to do your best to keep them focused.

How can we help kids stay focused??

When we create art, we take so much for granted without even realizing it. All the things we’ve learned and experiences we’ve had subconsciously play a part in what and how we create.

Other people, and especially kids, won’t have this same “data” to work with. (And you won’t have the same data they have either, of course!) For most kids (and even adults), watching someone as they create is like only getting half of the story.

When teaching anyone anything, sharing the thoughts in your head as you create can be a game-changer.

Sharing your thoughts helps classroom management by improving your ability to hold students’ attention.

If you describe not only what you’re doing, but also why you’re doing it, and any other related thoughts, your lesson will be more engaging to your students. And students who are engaged with your lesson will assimilate more information.

This teaching strategy applies naturally to your art demo. But you can also apply this concept to everything from explaining why you’re teaching a specific lesson right now, to how you chose which medium to use, to where this plays into what you might do next.

Try not to take anything in your head for granted! You never know what small piece of information will switch on a light bulb of understanding for a student.

Making art is both physical and mental. Whatever it is you’re doing, be aware of what’s going on in your head while you’re doing it and share that. 

Made a mistake? Great! This is the perfect opportunity to model a “growth mindset” response. React lightheartedly, without blaming or making excuses, and treat your mistake as an opportunity to learn. 

You can also ask questions and involve your students in a discussion about your process. Be sincere and enthusiastic. Become a passionate storyteller.

Let your students know each decision as you’re making it in real time. Remember, kids won’t know what’s going on inside your head unless you tell them. The more they understand your thought process, the more learning will take place.

It takes practice to be this intentional, but once you develop this habit it can become second nature. It will also help you become more mindful in your own creative work.

When I started teaching this way, I saw an immediate shift in my student’s attention levels and engagement as well as their understanding. It’s great to be “in the zone” when you’re creating, but if you’re teaching, make sure the zone you’re in is the “teaching zone”!

Kids can’t be both engaged and “checking out” at the same time. So share what’s on your mind as you’re teaching to hold kids’ attention and keep them engaged. When it comes to classroom management for art teachers, a class that’s engaged in your lesson won’t be a problem to manage!

an inspiring quote:

“Teaching is successful only as it causes people to think for themselves. What the teacher thinks matters little; what he makes the child think matters much.”

~  Alice Moore Hubbard, Schoolteacher and Suffragist

So, first I tell you that you should let kids know what you’re thinking, and then I tell you what the teacher thinks doesn’t matter??!

Sharing your thought process is an important tool for engaging your students and inspiring them to think. But cloning your thoughts is not the end goal here!

When students see how your thinking drives your decisions and actions, they become more aware of their own thought process. 

By modeling your thoughts and the options you consider, you give kids an insider’s view to the creative process in action. This might be just the leg-up they need to start thinking and creating for themselves.

a question to consider:

What’s one creative decision you make almost subconsciously that your students could benefit from hearing you verbalize?