How to Get Students to Opt for Art

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As you start planning for next year, don’t forget to plan for how you are going to get students to opt for art.  This might be GCSE or A Level in the UK or different electives in other countries.  I’ve heard lots of teachers comment on social media that their numbers are down.  Is this the case for you? I believe this has a lot do to with covid and how this has clipped our wings in so many ways.  Getting students excited about art needs to be top of the agenda.

Encouragement

You can’t start being encouraging early enough. There is no point leaving it until the week before students have to select what subjects they are taking forward. When students work at a higher level I frequently tell them that their work wouldn’t look out of place in a GCSE sketchbook. If a student is creative, I tell them that they will love GCSE art. I tell the whole class that I want them to opt for art.  Look for excuses to be enthusiastic about all that your department has to offer.

Rewarding Students

There are so many ways to reward students. Selecting their work to display in your department and around the school, writing positive comments when you are marking, giving verbal praise, holding up their work as a good example during class and sharing their work on social media and letting them know that you have done so.  All these actions will make students feel positive about your subject. This will encourage them to opt.

You may have a school-wide rewards system.  In my school we award credits and three credits lead to receiving a merit.  The students collect merits which eventually gives them a book token.  I make sure that I’m generous with merits, especially just before options take place.  Whatever your school reward system is, make sure you use it.

Teach Exciting Projects

If you are teaching exciting projects that your students really engage with lower down the school, you are going to excite students about opting for art. Why not ask your students what aspects of the course they have enjoyed so that you can improve your course for future years? I have a useful ‘Art Department Questionaire’ designed to do just that.  Hopefully, this will have a positive impact on those who want to study art at a higher level. 

Pre Options Presentation

Do you give your students an options presentation for art? We do in my department and it gives students an idea of what the course entails. The presentation is designed to show them inspiring work and also allay any fears they may have regarding the amount of time required or if they are good enough.  The student artwork included is exciting and varied, and I try to update it a little bit each year. You could also include this excellent video that talks about art careers.  There is more about careers below.

Art Role Models

Choose a confident and articulate student who has opted for your courses to talk to younger students. This can work wonders. If they see a student who they look up to talking enthusiastically about your subject it is a real winner.  You could always video the student and include it in your options presentation.

Careers

Highlighting what past students who have opted for art have gone on to study, and what careers they are now enjoying, is an important way to get students to see art as a subject worth pursuing.

Creating lessons about art careers for younger students is a great way to open their eyes to the numerous jobs that art can lead to.

You can also create displays that show a picture of a past student and quotes about why they opted for art and what they have gone on to study at a higher level once they have left school.

How to Get Students to Opt for Art

Exciting Trips

It is a bonus if the courses you want them to opt for includes an exciting trip. These may be day trips or residential trips and they can be a big attraction for students.  Let your students know about these trips and really big them up.

Be an Amazing Teacher.

We all know that students opt because they like the teacher. Be enthusiastic about what you teach.  If you’re not, ask yourself why.  If you aren’t getting the number of students that you would like, perhaps it is time to reflect on your classroom style and professional relationships with students.  If you’ve been teaching for a few years you can probably think of colleagues who attracted low numbers and you can probably articulate why.  How do your students view you?

If you have strategies that you use to encourage students to opt for art, please comment below.

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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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