Combat Boredom with Sketchbook Projects

Students' sketchbooks are an amazing way to keep kids engaged when they finish a project!

Use sketchbooks as a way to extend students’ learning after they finish working on their art project for the day.

Supplies (for each book):

  • 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • 4 sheets 12″ x 18″ drawing paper
  • Staples!

The best change I made to my classroom last year was introducing sketchbooks! The first quarter I used the old “you can free draw on computer paper when you’re done” strategy. Which, let’s be honest, is not a strategy that works very well! Giving students their own sketchbook added so much meaning to the shorter projects I gave them to do after they finished an assignment. Because they were invested in what they were creating, I saw a dramatic shift in how focused my students on their drawings.

At the beginning of the second quarter, I decided to make sketchbooks for my 3rd and 4th grade classes. I color coordinated my room by making each class a different color of the rainbow. On the first day of Art, I taught them how to draw block and bubble letters. They drew their names and filled them in with patterns using Sharpie.

On each of my PowerPoints, I added a slide at the end for the Sketchbook Project that kids would work on when they finished their artwork. They could always choose to go back and finish an old sketchbook drawing before they started the new one. For the Monster Sculpture project, the prompt was “Draw your monster’s family.” Some students decided to draw a group of monsters who looked similar and other monster families were very different.

The first sketchbook project my third graders did was after they completed their Shape Robots. After we talked about what a verb is, we brainstormed ideas of things they could draw their robots doing. It was incredible to see the wide range of ideas they came up with!

After the fourth graders finished their Notan Project, I showed them how to create radial symmetry by repeating shapes on a piece of circle graph paper. Creating mandalas was the perfect sketchbook project because it built on our discussions of symmetry for creating notans. The process of drawing mandalas is so calming; it was a nice break for the students who had gotten a bit stressed from the brain work that goes in to creating a notan.

One of my favorite sketchbook projects was the Roll a Miro game I found online. After my third graders finished their Miro Creatures using lines and shapes from Miro paintings, I taught them how to play the game. They rolled a dice to choose the eyes, body, arms and color scheme of their creature. Some students just played it once and spent a lot of time on their creature. Other students, who finished a day early, were able to create several creatures. This was a sketchbook project that the kids asked for me to bring out again after our next assignment, especially if they didn’t get a chance to do it the first time.

At the end of the Hybrid Animal project, my fourth graders drew their animal throughout it’s life cycle. I liked that this sketchbook project connected the artwork they created with scientific concepts. It was interesting to see how creative they got with imagining how their animal would look at different stages.

After they finished using pastels for their Castle Creativity project, I asked my students to draw an inside room of their castle. This was a great extension because they were able to tie in the theme and mood of their castle. A student whose castle was made of ice cream could create an interior drawing that showed the ice cream machines in the kitchen.

The comic book project was a huge hit! After my third graders finished their Pop Art Words, I invited them to create a comic strip in their sketchbooks. I had whole tables of kids working together and laughing about the stories they created! This was definitely a project that my students continued working on after the painting assignment was over.

One of the most rewarding parts of introducing sketchbooks into my class was seeing how proud my students were of their sketchbooks at the Showcase. I put the sketchbooks out on long tables in the hallway next to the mounted artwork displays. It warmed my heart to see kids looking through other students’ sketchbooks and asking their parents to take their photo with their own sketchbook.

It does take some extra time to put the books together before a new quarter starts. I have learned to offer art tickets for doing the job of “sketchbook-making.” Both my third and fourth graders can get quite an assembly line going as we all fold and staple the books together. Usually, I can get them all done in about a week with my students’ help.



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