I love reading blog posts from other teachers that give me tips or ideas that I can incorporate into my classroom procedures, or give ways to make things easier for me. I hope that this post is that kind of post for someone out there.
A little background:
My classroom is in half of a portable, with no sink (or should I say, I have one of those portable sinks with the hand pump and a jug under the counter. Aka no plumbing), and large class sizes. With the exception of one grade level I always have a class and a half, on average 36 students, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a little bit less but never much less. So, painting projects have always seemed like a challenge for me in my classroom. Overcrowding often leads to spills. Cleaning brushes and paint containers always seems to take more time than I have. Lucky for me, I was a house painter for over 10 years and feel that if I could clean brushes then, that I can do it now. However, the challenges of my room had led me to only using watercolors because they are easier to clean up, and only letting each grade level have one painting assignment per school year. Which means constantly hearing " Mr. Fleming, are we ever going to paint?"
Down to the helpful information:Back in December, I stayed late in my classroom and was being a good little art nerd and listening to AOE Live while cleaning my room for the holiday break. While listening to Episode 18 with the lady from the blog Painted Paper, I heard something that got my wheels turning. She mentioned not having water at the tables for students to clean their brushes, but having them clean their brushes out on paper before dipping in a new color. That seemed to answer all my problems. Laura Lohmann, if you read my blog by any chance, thank you. Not having water at the table means no spills. In an overcrowded room, I hadn't found any way to prevent spills, not even the large roasting pan under the wash cup worked, they just tipped that over too. For a long time now, I have been contemplating ways to bring more painting back into my classroom. The one trick of cleaning on the paper was the piece of the puzzle that I was missing.
If you look in the above picture, you will notice that I rolled paper out across my table that is actually a little less in width than the table itself. I told my students that the exposed table area there is a no paint zone. This prevents them from leaning into paint. The other tip with that is this, no students are allowed to tie their aprons. They all whine about this till I demonstrate why. Letting them hang low, prevents the students from leaning against the table and getting paint on their pants. Additionally, I do not have to help anyone untie a knot at the end of class. I tell them if they tie their apron, they can not paint until the knot is out. Students were told as they entered the classroom, that on paint party day, nobody sits down. You can't sit and partaayyy. This is actually a clever way to keep sleeves out of the paint.
Speaking of frequency of paint parties. I am using paint parties as a reward. At my school, I see all classes during the first four days of the week, Fridays are a rotating schedule. One Friday I will see all of my Monday classes, the next I will see all of my Tuesday classes, and so forth. I have been doing a behavior contest at my school for 2015-16. Classes can earn up to 5 points per visit to art. 1 point for how they enter the classroom, 2 points for not interrupting instruction, 1 point for using table voices during work time (not screaming at the person next to you), and 1 point for clean up time. The class with the most points at the end of a grading cycle gets a trophy for their classroom, that can be taken at the end of the next grading cycle if someone gets more points than them. (I got the trophy idea from an article by Michael Linsin, author of Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers) As long as the home room teachers are behind it, this has worked very well. However, I wanted to sweeten the deal for the last semester of the year. If classes earn enough points before they come to me for their rotating Friday, then they earn a paint party.
Friday paint parties allow me to set up paint supplies in the morning and not worry about clean up until the end of the day. They give the students something to work for that they really want, and give me something to remind them about when their behavior is starting to step away from ideal.
As for clean up, sandwich bags inside of my paint cups is the best trick of all. I saw this on one of those classroom hack lists. Without water, cleaning paint containers takes for ever. Another plus to this is, at the end of the day, I just squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. No paint gets washed down a drain.
I almost forgot, some classes did not earn a party. They had to walk through class looking at the paint party materials to get their alternate assignment. My last class of the day got to watch as I cleaned up from everyone else as they worked on their alternate, silent, writing assignment. Does this make me mean. Maybe, but I hope for the classes that did not have good enough behavior before, that they will want to try a little harder now.