Lauren Hodson | November 2016

Be Better Boards: Breaking Bad Habits

Want a positive way to encourage students to push themselves and extend their abilities? Try a “Be Better Board.” As educational experts, we know what bad habits our students can fall into. There are sets of these bad habits for each content area. In our classrooms, we should address these habits in the beginning and guide our students to “Be Better!” Keeping the language positive is important.  Instead of chastising or scolding students for falling into these known patterns, ask them to improve their abilities and stretch themselves. See their full potential by breaking bad habits of students.

In the middle school art classroom, I see a consistent collection of unimaginative tactics to fill space. Students have learned on these for years. Detailed drawings are cheapened by these fan-favorites when students are asked to add more to their artwork. So what’s on the list in breaking bad habits of students? Word Bubbles, Broccoli Trees, Smiley Faces, Letter Birds, Stick Figures, and Hairy or Corner Suns.

Breaking bad habits of students, Education Closet


Word or Thought Bubbles:

  • Unless it is a comic strip, rely more on facial expressions and body positions to convey emotions. Have students model these movements for each other or have them look in a mirror to capture the expressions.

Broccoli Trees:

  • Trees have many details in them that are not represented in this generic way.  They have knots in their bark, individual leaves, and leaf clusters, as well as branches of many different sizes. In order to ask students to represent these parts of a tree, have them draw from observation by looking out the window or research pictures online.

Smiley Faces:

  • This is not because I don’t enjoy happiness, it is because it does not represent a human face. Nobody’s face is a perfect circle and people have pupils, irises, eyelids, eyebrows, noses, lips, ears, etc. No one looks like that in real life.

Letter Birds, Hairy and Corner Suns:

  • These are reliable ways to fill space in the sky. But, there are so many different things that can be drawn instead.  A UFO, airplane, parachute, hot air balloon, kite, or just a nice splash of colors. I also link this with suns wearing sunglasses.  Why would a sun need sunglasses if the light comes from them?

Stick Figures:

  • There are times that stick figure are fun to draw and can be useful or playful. But when drawing a work of art, there is no love for the stick figure. No one looks like this in real life.  People have bodies, hands, fingers, feet, and elbows! Not including these things is doing humans and your artwork a disservice.

In order to make light of these breaking bad habits of students, as an expert, know your students may fall into, make a Be Better Board. Place it in a spot next to your classroom rules. I have students reference the list all the time. And when I see them trying to revert back to their old ways, all I have to do is kindly say, “Remember… Be Better today” and point to the board.

What would you add to a “Be Better Board” for your classroom in Breaking Bad Habits Of Students?

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.