Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My Thoughts on Early FInishers in the Art Room

This month's Art Ed Blogger's Network topic is Early Finishers.  I'm retired, and I work now with very small groups, so this is not much of a problem for me these days, but I don't think my opinions have changed much anyhow.
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I'll admit it; I was never one of those art teachers with a 'maker-space' or some other fancy setup for early finishers to find stuff to do.  I think if you have such an inviting open-ended location in your room, it actually can encourage kids to rush to finish early so that they can go 'play'.  I always aimed to have the projects we were working on to be engaging enough that the kids wouldn't be in a rush to finish them; instead, I wanted them to be so engaged that class time would run out and the challenge would be to get the kids to stop working, clean up, and line up to leave.
Still, inevitably, there were kids who were done before others.  With some projects (weaving, and perspective, in particular, come to mind), kids who were very proficient, and therefore could finish more quickly, became helpers for kids who find the process more challenging.  A sign on my classroom wall posted the rule "Ask 3 Before You Ask Me".  The early-finishers were often good people to ask for help when I was not available.
But yes, sometimes there was the possibility of 'free choice' art-making when work was done quickly.  But just as often, early finishers became classroom assistants.  They would be given staple pullers to take down artwork, and then they would sort and stack the work.  Or they were asked to match student work with name tags.  Or to fill glue bottles.  Or clean the white board.  Or clean the sink. [ I suppose I'd better explain the bizzaro photo below.  This is a pic of a student's unusual cleanup procedure.  Every water bucket was rinsed out out, filled with water, and then had a sponge stuffed inside.  Careful and methodical, but not exactly what I expected when he offered to clean up the sink area.]
Or the early finishers/helpers would deliver sorted artwork to classrooms.  Or cover and organize cups of paint in color order.  Or hang the background for a new display.  Or color in signs for displays.  Or sort paper.  Or test markers and separate out those that don't work.  Or scrub tables.  Or wash paintbrushes.  Or water the plants (I had lots of house plants in my classroom).  Or sweep the floor. Or...... I think you get the idea!
Frankly, I learned that most elementary kids LOVE to help, love to organize.  They'll gladly give up lunch time or recess to help hang up an art display or use a scraper to clean dried glue and paint off the tables. And some of them really love to organize, in particular to arrange things in some sort of meaningful order.  They organized the yarn into trays of warm colors, cool colors, neutrals, and assorted crazy yarns.  For some reason, there's always kids who love untangling yarn messes (we call them 'tangle-bombs') and sorting the balls of yarn.
 Look at the spontaneous sculpture created by a student sorting rolls of tape! 
Or this, my personal favorite, a lovely symmetrical castle-like tower of water bowls, arranged at the sink to drain out and dry.  Perfect!
And even now, as I work with my classes of about 5 to 8 students, they will fight over the opportunity to wash the table or sweep the floor at the end of class.  I wonder how many of them like to clean up at home?

Thanks for visiting!  This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.  You can use the links below to hop on over and visit some of the other blog posts on this month's topic.
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