After 16 weeks of Home Learning, we were finally able to welcome students back on campus before the end of the school year. Although the school day looks and feels very different, everyone is grateful to be reunited, try out a new way of facilitating learning while practicing social distancing and having closure to the 2019-2020 school year. Every school, state, and country is different in regards to what is best for schools and their student population but this post is about my experience and some things that helped me return to campus.
Art teachers are flexible and this will fair you well when managing what to expect as you return as schedules, guidelines, and expectations which will likely change before, during, and after you transition back to campus. At my school, art and music now ‘push-in’ to classes to reduce the number of transitions for students. Art-on-a-cart is better than no art at all. I teach 40-minute lessons and teach twenty students at a time spread between two classrooms with an adjoining door. Expect your schedule, routines, and lessons to look and feel very different, but by managing those expectations you will be better prepared to be flexible for your students and their learning.
Your First Lesson Back
For your first lesson back, you may feel that you need to bring out all the materials that students may not have had access to, but don’t be a hero. Choose a lesson that is going to help ease you and students back into things. From sanitising materials to feeling comfortable with new schedules and routines, choose a lesson that has minimal preparation and clean-up. For my first lesson, I introduced the artist, Takashi Murakami. My goal was to teach students how to recreate his iconic super flat flowers, have them learn about popular visual culture all the while allowing students to chat with others while they created, colored, and practiced motor control and grip – something that many of them regressed on during their weeks away.
Keeping Things Clean
Students brought and used their own pencils, pens, scissors, and a glue stick. Choosing materials that are easy to clean is important for your first few lessons. My routine is to have students use hand sanitizer before they begin the art lesson and then after they are finished with the materials they used during the lesson, I bring the materials back to the art room where I spray them with 70% rubbing alcohol. Pens, markers, spray bottles, paintbrushes are all easy to clean in this manner and help ensure the materials are safe to use for the next lesson.
Use the face mask you have to wear as an opportunity to be art. We now have a new accessory to help show our style, mood, and/or share a message. Whether it is writing, ‘ART MATTERS’ on your mask to theming it to your lesson, inspire and excite your students by modelling a way to be creative through what is now a necessary personal item.
Make it Fun
This seems obvious but it is important to keep at the forefront of your mind when planning your first lesson with students. Everyone will feel a little tense which is to be expected so try and loosen the tension by bringing some fun into the mix. After students completed their Murakami super flat flowers we played Bingo. If students had four out of four of the combination I called out they yelled, ‘SUPER-FLAT!’ and received a Flower Power sticker. It may seem small but playing Bingo in a room full of friends and peers is a fun way to break the cycle of four months of independent home learning.
I am not going to lie, I miss the students in my art room, the freedom to use any and all materials without restrictions and getting to play another soundtrack during art class other than the now squeak of my art cart wheels but it is better than not having the students on campus. Whether it is from a potted plant at home or a flower sprouting from a crack in the sidewalk, our students will continue grow as long as we maintain a positive growth mindset and embody FLOWER POWER ourselves!
Below are the shared resources for the lesson – feel free to use and share!