I recently transitioned from a suburban district into the one of the largest school districts in the country. I'm fortunate to teach at one of most amazing and supportive schools in Philadelphia, yet even so, I found myself really having to get creative when it came to properly managing my extra large class sizes, especially those where students with special needs are included into classes of over 25 students.
My classes represent an extremely huge range of ability levels. I felt torn in a million directions sensing that many of my students with special needs who were included in the art class were feeling frustrated and well....bored! Many of my students with the most severe learning disabilities needed extra support that I could not always manage to provide at the same time I was responsible for teaching grade specific content to their traditional peers.
Early on, I voiced my concerns with one of the Autistic Support teachers at my school. She comes from a creative background and I have suspicions that she is an artist in a teacher costume! :) She took the time to listen my dilemma and helped me to brainstorm an idea that has made a substantial difference.
After securing an old cart from my custodian friend, I purchased a few brightly colored bins from the dollar store. In each bin, I designed a mess free mini lesson that could be completed with little to no instruction. The mini projects include paper sculpture strips, bead stringing, cookie cutters with Crayola puddy, bingo dot markers with easy to follow worksheets, hoola hoop looms to weaving on, sticky foam shapes and backgrounds, cardboard cut outs that can be wrapped with string, and simple felted balls. I have a few additional no mess things on the cart such as a white board, a foam alphabet puzzle, and some colored blocks.
It may not seem like much, but it has proved to be very helpful at getting reluctant students into the art room and has helped some students on the autistic spectrum get instantly engaged and comforted. The cart can easily be rolled out when it is being used, and then rolled back into a corner when it is not needed. The paraprofessionals I work with have told me that they appreciate having some easy go-to tasks they can use while I am giving the sometimes lengthy instructions that accompany the main lesson. Some of my paraprofessional colleagues have even been kind enough to make suggestions about things I can add or update the cart with, such as coloring pages that expressly relate to a student's interest.
I am looking for more simple, no mess mini lessons. Any teachers out there reading who have come up with some tried and true solutions, let me know! This cart has helped immensely but is certainly still a work in progress.
Sunny is an art teacher who is living the dream. The only thing she enjoys more than her curious students are the adventures she has with her loving husband and cat in the fabulous city of Philadelphia!
Artful Artsy Amy
The Department of Making + Doing
The Philadelphia Museum of Art