Today in the mini-series on incidental teaching opportunities, I want to focus on art time in the classroom. This could be during a “special” of art or just during art activities developed by the teacher.
Let me confess something here. I love art time in the classroom, but I am not good at it. I am not good at coming up with art projects for the kids to do–really not good at this at all. However, there are SOOOO many things you can teach during art activities that it is one of my favorite times of the day. Here are 5 opportunities that art presents that are great for incidental teaching.
Probably one of the easiest types of opportunity to create in art is setting up situations in which the student has to ask for materials. They can request the color of materials (e.g., paint, crayon, paper, etc.) using speech or augmentative communication (click on the picture to download free art visuals for requesting or commenting). They could request in sentences or with one-word requests depending on their skills. They can ask for materials they need to complete the task. For instance, ask them to cut something out but don’t put out the scissors. Ask them to color but don’t put out the crayons or put them out of their reach.
I love doing art projects that require tearing paper and glueing it on a figure or a paper plate or putting it on contact paper to make it look like stained glass. OK, I said I wasn’t good at coming up with projects–and that’s one of the reasons I love this type of activity–it’s easy. However, I also love it because it offers so many opportunities for requesting. They can request more paper, different colors of papers, different types of paper if you are using different textures, etc. I can get at least 5-10 requests for stuff during an art activity by giving limited supplies and having lots of options. You can also target requesting from a peer by giving a peer buddy the materials for the student to request (and assuring they will give them).
First, keep the materials out of the reach of the students. Either put them out of their reach or in containers they can’t open. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ask someone to pass the salt at dinner if I can reach it. Neither will our students.
Second, give them limited amounts each time they make a request. So if they ask for tissue paper, give them just a few pieces. Then they have to ask again to continue the project. Use visual cues on the template so they can see all the areas they need to fill (even they aren’t terribly excited about the art activity itself–this way they will be motivated by knowing when they will be finished).
Third, of course, is that you expect the request, you tempt them by showing them what their choices are, but you try not ask them what they need or want.
2. Sharing Materials
Another way to create learning opportunities during art is to create times where students are expected to take turns or share materials. To do this establish with students that they are to share with a specific student and give the pair only one set of paints or one set of crayons. I try to choose one peer who is a bit more able to share than the one who is learning if possible. This makes this a good goal to target during inclusion or with peer buddies too. It helps too if you can have a bin that the material is in that the students can pass back and forth. This makes it visually clearer that they need to ask for a turn. It might be working on task for a turn with the materials from the peer or it might involve waiting their turn to use the materials when the other student is using them (e.g., Bill and Monte both like to color with blue, so Monte has to wait while Bill is coloring and then ask to use the blue when Bill is done).
3. Naming colors, shapes and other targets
This seems a little obvious, but art provides an excellent time to squeeze in some opportunities for generalizing vocabulary like colors, shapes, art supplies and materials. You can model by narrating your actions or another students’ actions (e.g., “Bill is coloring with the blue crayon.”) Then when giving materials you can hold the item up and see if the student spontaneously names it. If not you can give a prompt or model to coax out the label. I would do that before I asked “what is this?” In most instances, I would probably just model the answer I want because I usually am trying to target independent labeling that leads to commenting rather than answering questions. You could also work on targeting some wh- questions too by asking what a student is doing (verbs), what he has (nouns), or where he is putting the glue or materials, where is he coloring.
4. Following Directions
Art projects provide an easy opportunity to give one-step directions (put the glue on the paper, fold the paper, get a pencil). Try to narrow down the types of one-step directions to about 4-5 to specifically target if the student is just learning this skill. Giving and assessing performance on 20 different directions will be difficult and probably yield highly variable results depending on the direction, making mastery take quite a while. If you narrow it down to 4-5 you can reliably assess and teach those. When they are mastered you can change them up with new ones.
Following the directions to complete the art activity is a wonderful opportunity to practice sequencing. The students have to follow a sequence of actions (e.g., color, cut, glue) to complete the project. You can also have the student tell you the sequence the activities or take pictures of the activity and have him/her put the steps in order. I love visual task analyses showing the project at different steps so that students can follow along. For examples check out Tasks Galore Art book and Gabrielle Dixon’s from Teaching Special Thinkers Easy Art packs for this–I would totally use these if I had a classroom because they are so easy to prep and go–and the visual is already made for you! (That link goes to her bundle of year-long art, but you can find all the different packs individually in her store.)
One of the most important points that everyone in the room needs to understand is that: Art is about the PROCESS not the product. We have all had staff who focus on making sure there is a nice picture to go home to the parents. I have to say I have never met a parent who didn’t know that the perfect art project was not done independently by their child. The focus on what they learn in art is the primary point of it in the classroom to me, not the end product, but sometimes we all need reminders of that. 🙂
So those are just some of the skills that are great to target in art. I’m sure there are many more and would love to hear about them. Please share them! You may also want to check out my Pinterest board for art projects where I make it a point to collect a variety of easy art activities.
Until next time,