Fun Art Lessons for the First Day

By The Arty Teacher - August 1, 2021

Art teachers have been sharing some great ideas for fun art lessons for the first day on social media.  Some teachers go through expectations and rules and this may be the right thing to do in your school or even a requirement by your management but given the choice, I like to try to get creative straight away and drip feed students the rules and expectations over the first few weeks.  Here are some ideas for lessons that will make an excellent, creative first impression:

Making Sketchbooks

Some art teachers really dive straight in and get their classes to make sketchbooks.  You would need to be super organised but if you were, what a great first lesson this would be.  Sketchbooks with different papers inside are so appealing and there are numerous ways to do this.  You could use different ways of making sketchbooks with different year groups.

Why is Art Important?

Why not start the year with the question ‘Why is Art Important?’  Have some post-it notes handy for students to think in pairs to start with and then open the discussion up to the class.  Use your environment to talk about what is designed. Reflect on how important art was in lockdown.  The video that you can use by Tate Shots ‘Why Study Art‘ makes some excellent points and is clear and concise!  You could move onto art careers if you have time.

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse is a Surrealist game that asks players to create a collective drawing.  In turn, players draw the head and then pass on the drawing to the next player who draws the body and the final player draws the feet.  It can be lighthearted and fun and doesn’t really require any drawing skill.  You can find a free lesson plan for this game here: Exquisite Corpse.

Embrace the Shake

If you haven’t seen the TED talk called ‘Embrace the Shake’ you need to check it out.  Artist Phil Hansen explains how he overcame a tremor in his hand and embraced his limitation and turned it into a positive.  Inspiring stuff!  You can find it on my art TED Talks page.

Two Truths and a Lie

For a light-hearted start to the year where the focus is on getting to know your class, the game ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ is an easy no-prep game to choose.  It’s as simple as it sounds.  One person has to say three statements, one of which isn’t true.  The class have to guess which is the untrue statement.

Group Painting

A group painting can make a fun lesson for the first day.  Divide your class into groups.  Give each group a large piece of paper and whatever materials you want.  Alternatively, one long strip of paper down the middle of the room could be fun too.  You could either give students a theme such as ‘Your Summer’ or ‘Back to School’ or ‘Things I Love’, or ask them to paint to music.  I have even read that one teacher placed a dot on the paper and said you can draw anything but you need to incorporate the dot into the composition.  Great idea!

Assessment for Learning

If you have some drawing projects planned for the year, you could ask students to draw something with no instruction which, at the end of the year, they could compare to their work after they have been taught to do it.  For example, on a page they could draw a portrait and a hand.  This is great for them to see the progress they have made and great for you to evidence progress.  This could be a portrait from their imagination or of a classmate, or you could give them a mirror.

Make Bad Art

Task your class with making a bad piece of art.  Put out a range of materials for them to use.  This will lead to an interesting discussion about what good and bad art is. What is bad art?  What is good art? Who decides this?

Marshmallow Towers

This is a classic task which you’ve probably heard of before.  Group your students and then give each group a set amount of dried spaghetti and marshmallows.  Then give them a time limit and the challenge of who can build the highest tower.  It’s a great team-building exercise.  An alternative way to run it is to give them dried spaghetti and a set length of masking tape and one marshmallow.  You then challenge them with making a structure that can hold the marshmallow and the highest structure wins.

Baseline Testing

Many schools complete baseline testing to assess the level their students are working at.  If your baseline tests are delivered as fun and creative activities, you could dive straight in with these. I have a fun baseline testing activity that I use which covers creativity, drawing ability, spatial awareness and manual dexterity.

Continuous Line Drawings

Challenge your students to create continuous line drawings of their classmates.  Show some good examples and demonstrate what a continuous line drawing is.  Give each student a large piece of paper.  If possible make them work in pen and use a different coloured pen for each drawing.  It’s ok if the drawings overlap slightly – in fact, it looks great if they do.

If you have some ideas for what makes a good first lesson, please comment below.  Click the image below to be kept informed about new blog posts and to be able to access 3 of my free resources a month.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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20 responses to “Fun Art Lessons for the First Day”

  1. Jason says:

    Love the ideas!

  2. Magda Benavides Verdesoto says:

    Ms. Sarah

    I am Magda and I love art. I am an EFL teacher in Guayaquil – Ecuador. I have been taking some private art classes in my native city. This year it will be my first time teaching art.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas.

  3. Thanks for these ideas! I love group painting, and getting those creative juices to work.

  4. Lawna Gamble says:

    An abundance of ideas! As a first year, middle-aged art teacher, this is beyond helpful. I more than appreciate it, this is truly a gift.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Lawna, Thanks for your comment and good luck with your first year. I’m so pleased you found this useful. Do register on my site if you haven’t already done so as I send out a weekly email that features my resources and blog posts. Sarah

  5. Michelle Montierth says:

    I had my AP art students, do a selfie character design based on the style of a character design artist or in their own character design style. The character is supposed to be in action doing something they like to do. It should also resemble them. The kids had a great time with this. They took photos of themselves in action to use as a reference, looked up existing character illustrations and got right to work. I liked walking around the room and seeing what they liked to do based on their drawings.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      This sounds like a great idea and a really great way to get to know your students. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Claire Ewing says:

    Have you seen ‘how i became 100 artists’ Shea Hambrey Ted talks – it’s fab! I get my IB students to write about it – see if they get it or not!

  7. Love your ideas thanks for sharing. I did a fun one today for the first time. I had students illustrate something they love or something they are good at as I called attendence. Then, on the back of the paper I printed 9 different images. My class sizes are 36. After they drew for 10 min they moved to new seats with classmates who had the same image as them. In those groups they had to cut their drawings out and tape them together to create a superhero. So, it could have a remote control head, a book body and paintbrush arms for example. I told them they could emprovise, redraw or add anything if needed. Then, create a name and superhero power. I tapped them to a poster with the name above in sharpie. They were hysterical and a great ice breaker. I even went a step further and they voted anonomously for their favorite super hero name up use as their class nickname.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      This sounds like a fun and creative idea. Thanks for sharing. (Sorry for my slow response, I’ve been away!)

  8. C. Wick says:

    If time and space permit, I like to have my 7-12 students make or repurpose mark-making tools- paint brushes or drawing tools.

  9. Vanessa Gibson says:

    Fab stuff!

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