Art room discipline

By | 2017-08-22T20:33:52+00:00 November 10th, 2015|For teachers|0 Comments

Whether it’s rough-housing, using crayons as missiles, not cleaning up, or general back chat, there can’t be a teacher on the planet that does not have issues with discipline. If you’re looking for fresh perspectives on how to handle an unruly class, read on…

Many art teachers are struggling with stress before they even set foot in a classroom. Low supply budgets, teaching from a cart, having to wrestle for rooms and space with other teachers, or simply seeing too many students too infrequently to build up a rapport, can all add up. So when you’re trying your hardest to create interesting creative lessons, it can feel like a personal insult when a class, or a student refuses to behave. In this blog we look at some of the recommended ways to cope.

Stay cool

Scolding, lecturing or removing children from the classroom is never an effective way to achieve good behaviour. The culprits become resentful – and angry students that dislike their teacher almost never change their behaviour. Losing your emotional control, even if it’s just a sigh or an eye roll, costs you respect, which in turn makes you a less effective teacher. Once students discover they can push your buttons, they will – and often.

Okay so there’s the list of don’ts. But what can you actually DO?

Create (and follow) a classroom management plan

Kids have an inherent sense of fairness, and most of your class will welcome you holding misbehaving students accountable and restoring an atmosphere of calm. But there needs to be absolute consistency in this. What are the rules and what are the consequences? On this excellent website Smart Classroom Management you’ll find a whole lot of tips on building a plan and dealing with disruptive students. Blogger, author, and teacher Michael Linsin recommends laying down the following ground rules:

  1. Listen and follow directions.
  2. Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.
  3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
  4. Respect your classmates and your teacher.

He says, “These rules work because they make sense to students, they’re fully enforceable, and they cover all the bases. Also, because of their refreshing lack of ambiguity, they discourage arguing, complaining, and finger pointing. They are what they are. You either break them or you don’t.”

Of course with rules come consequences:

1st consequence warning

2nd consequence time out

3rd consequence letter home

Failing to follow the classroom management plan each and every time also has a number of consequences for you as a teacher, says Michael: “The worst position to be in as a teacher is one where you feel you have no leverage, no recourse, and no options other than responding out of anger and going home stressed and discouraged.

“Teachers who disregard their classroom management plan are the same teachers who find themselves being ‘that’ teacher—the one they never pictured themselves being: stone-faced, angry, sarcastic. Being this way in an attempt to gain control will virtually guarantee that students will resent you and have every incentive to make your life difficult.”

Reinforce expectations

Are your students aware of exactly what behaviour is expected of them and are they reminded regularly? Or do you just presume they know how to behave? In the blog DeepSpaceSparkle, Patty Palmer talks about a realisation she had after a particularly tough class:

“I realized I don’t reinforce my expectations as often as I should. I just expect my students to act accordingly. So when the next group came in, I reminded them how few times they get to create art with me (just 15 times a year). I reminded them that this is art class, not art recess or free-choice time. I reminded them of all the cool projects we  have done and will still do that involves great techniques and cool supplies. They listened respectfully and we quickly moved onto the art project. They got it.”

Reinforce this by posting the rules and consequences in a place where they can be easily seen.

Engage students

Sarah Dougherty from The Art of Ed recommends a number of student engagement strategies:

  1. Make a log of problematic behaviours for a week or two as well as your successful and well managed times. What happened during these times that you can replicate or avoid?
  2. Part of eliminating power struggles is making students feel like they have some power. Even a choice between watercolor and tempera might help fend off issues.
  3. Make door A more appealing than door B. Door A  means learning about art by making it and discussing it right along with your classmates. Door B means learning about art through worksheets and textbooks.
  4. Ask your students what they want to learn. Stop guessing! Go straight to the source and ask kids what is interesting to them.

Check out these resources

Use an online portfolio

Don’t forget that another great way to keep your students engaged and excited in art is (of course!) to use a digital portfolio like Creatubbles.


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Creatubbles™ is the safe global community for creators of all ages. Save, share, discover and interact with multimedia creativity portfolios.