Earn Art Centers using a Color Wheel

I use Color Wheel Charts to reward each class for following my expectations for their behavior. When they fill their Color Wheel, they earn a Centers Day!


Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.

When I taught middle school, I used a system where students earned minutes towards their “Free Art Friday.” It was the perfect way to give them an incentive to get through transitions quickly and clean up quickly. I wanted to modify that same idea so that it would work with the rotation schedule I have at the Elementary School.

Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.

Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.I started by brainstorming what behaviors were the most important to keeping our Art Room running smoothly. In order to earn their color: they have to follow my expectations about volume, clean up quickly and line up quietly.

I use our stoplight ART letters as a visual reminder of  the volume level. If it is on green, it means our volume is right on target. I warn a class when they are getting too loud and let them know that if it doesn’t get quieter, I will have to take down the green “A”. They can earn the “A” back by changing their volume. My students really respond to the simple visual reminder of the “A” being taken down.

I have a set of alarms on my computer that let each class know when it’s time to clean up and when it’s time for us to leave. After the first timer goes off, I give directions about what we need to do to clean. Depending on the project we are working on, they have 5-10 minutes to clean their table and go stand on their number for our Circle Up. During Circle Up, the Artist of the Day chooses people who are standing quietly to answer a creative thinking question.

Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.

When our second alarm goes off, it means it is time for us to leave. Before they leave, I ask them to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down as we talk through each of the three expectations they had to meet to earn their color. If they met them all, I pull out a color and put it onto their Color Wheel. If they missed one of the expectations, we review what they need to do to earn their color next time.

Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.

After the first couple of rotations, I realized it was hard for me to keep track of how each individual class was doing. I decided to add the component of Extra Special Centers so that the classes that consistently earned their color would get an extra reward. I created a chart that has three circles for each class and stapled it to the envelope that holds their colors. Every time they earn a color, I cross one of the circles off. If they earn a color three times in a row, when we have centers they get a couple of Extra Special Centers like paint, Playdoh or Legos.

Use Color Wheel Charts to help your art classes earn a Centers Day.

There were a handful of fourth grade classes that were having a difficult time earning a color. In those groups, most of the kids were on task and meeting the expectations. But there was a small group of kiddos who were struggling. I didn’t like the idea of everyone missing out on centers because of the choices a few kids were making. So I created a special “Individual Centers” seating chart. I explained that each kid would being earning their color individually. It is a lot of extra work! But I saw a big difference in the overall class’s behavior once they were each held accountable as individuals.



Not Your Average Coloring Center

Elementary art students can choose to go to a coloring page center where they re-invent artwork by an artist they just learned about.

PowerPoint: Table Artists 2015 & Table Artists 2016

Supply Box Labels: Table Name ImagesTable Names

Coloring Pages: Kusama ColoringLange Coloring

This is the second year I’ve named each of my tables after famous artists. I decided to add a new element to our discussions about these artists on Centers Day. I created a Coloring Page center, where students can re-create a painting by the artist we just talked about.

I will admit, I never thought I would incorporate photo-copied coloring pages into my art classroom. (I love having students create their own coloring pages!) I was looking for a way for kids to spend more time thinking about our table artists, and this turned out to be a great way to make that connection.

At the beginning of our Centers Day, I give the kids a little background information about one of the artists our tables are named after. Then I have them talk with each other about one or two pieces of their artwork. Focusing the mini art history lessons on our table artists has definitely increased their connection to the artwork. They get so excited to hear about the artist their table is named after!

This year I wanted them to have the opportunity to work on something they could take home with them. Only seeing them once a week makes it hard for them to retain the vocabulary words that we cover. Remembering an artist’s name is even trickier!

I was able to find a lot of pre-made coloring pages online. I created one for Dorothea Lange by putting her self-portrait in PowerPoint and changing the contrast. I also found a great website called Luna Pic that will take an image and turn it into a coloring page. The page I created using one of Yayoi Kusama’s paintings turned out great!

I have really enjoyed watching the way that they bring their own creativity to another artist’s work. I also love seeing coloring pages on display in other teachers’ classroom after a student gives it as a gift!

Free Computer Timer and Alarm Clock

The worst art teacher feeling in the world is looking at the clock while your students are painting and realizing that they leave in 3 minutes! I have tried multiple alarm solutions to avoid that stomach-sinking feeling. For a year, I had alarms set on my phone. It was better than nothing, but sometimes the alarm wasn’t loud enough. And it was a pain to dig around in my purse every class period. This year I decided to find an alarm program that I could install on my computer. (My school uses Windows operating systems.) The best program by far was Free Alarm Clock.

Free Alarm Clock

Right now, I have 16 alarms set on my computer. It is so easy to set up the alarms. It took about 5 minutes to create alarms for the whole day. You can choose different sounds for each alarm. I have one sound for clean-up and a different sound for leaving. My students have gotten to the point where they instinctively start cleaning up once they hear the alarm! It’s also easy to edit the alarms. When I’m starting a messier project that requires more clean-up time, I can quickly change the alarm in between classes. My absolute favorite thing about this program is that if I have my computer on mute, it will still sound the alarm.

Free Alarm Clock

I use a countdown timer once clean-up time has started so students know how much time they have left. (Any minutes that they save go towards their Centers Day on Friday.) I wanted a simple, bold timer for my computer so that kids could easily see how much time they could save. I really like this Minimalistic Countdown Timer.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

The timer automatically goes to full screen, which is nice when I want my students to be aware of how much time they have left. But if I need to do something on my computer, I can minimize it, and it still runs in the background. I have found that periodically announcing how much time they have left helps my students to hold each other accountable and encourage one another to finish cleaning up.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

It is crazy easy to set, start, pause, and re-set the timer. There is a 3 second countdown to start using the timer in the free version, but I haven’t found that it keeps me from doing what I need to do. (Honestly, it’s nice to have an excuse to stand still for 3 seconds!) If you can buy the full version, that lag time goes away and you get other features.

Minimalistic Countdown Timer

The screen that displays when your time is up makes it very clear that the timer has stopped. However, I usually stop the countdown timer when the kids are done cleaning so that it doesn’t interfere with our circle time.

Both the alarms and the countdown timer have made my classroom run so much smoother. It opens up so much of my brain space, not having to constantly check the clock to figure out when we need to start cleaning up. The timer has reinforced the idea of saving minutes for Centers Day. Giving my students clear information about how much time they have to clean puts them in control of saving as many minutes as possible for stations on Friday.