Susan Riley | August 2017

A Fun Arts Strategy for the First Day of School

The first day of school will be here before you know it!  Of all the things we consider as we get our classrooms ready for a new crop of students, our plan for the first day should be at the top of the list.  It sets the tone for the school year and helps us immediately build a positive relationship with our students.

While we all know that we have to go over rules, role call and syllabus’, I have always found that using an arts strategy to learn about my students was a great way to begin.  It lets them know that you care about who they are as people, and it allows you to have a little bit of fun!

Take What You Need Strategy

There are lots of ideas for the first days of school that you can use.  One of my favorites is the Take What You Need Strategy.  Lots of teachers have used the generic version of this with any age level.  But it’s even better with an artistic spin.

Fun Arts Strategy - First Day Activity
In this strategy, you offer students something that has a generous amount to begin.  In the regular version, teachers often use a roll of toilet paper or paper towels.  In this version, you’ll use an arts supply like brushes (visual art), scarves (dance), or even mallets (music).  Get creative in what you select for them to use!  However many items they choose, that’s how many things they need to use to create something new about themselves.

Strategy Steps

Here’s how it works:

  1. Gather students in a circle.  Pass around a container of an artistic supply of your choice.  Make sure there are more than enough for everyone!
  2. Tell students that they can take as many of the items as they think they need.  Just be sure that you leave enough for everyone else.
  3. However many of the items each student chose, they must then share a detail about themselves.  For example, if a student took 3 brushes, they can share their name, a hobby they enjoy, and a favorite vacation spot.  What they choose to share is up to them!
  4. Once everyone has had a turn, students then use their chosen objects to create a composition.  For example, the student who took 3 brushes must create a piece of artwork using each of those brushes in a different way.  If they chose 4 mallets, they need to play 4 different rhythms on a xylophone.

The creative opportunities with this strategy are endless.  You’ll be amazed at what students share and at what they create.  Additionally, you’ll learn so much about them that this could almost serve as a diagnostic assessment of what they know or don’t know about the arts area or their background knowledge in a topic.  And if you’re looking for even more strategies like this, try our Creative Mindset Blueprint online class.  It’s filled to the brim with arts-based strategies you can use right away.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan