Amy Traggianese | January 2018

6 Ideas: Student Independence in the Art Studio

Managing materials and supplies in an elementary school art room can be difficult! Since students in my art room choose what to create, they need to be able to set up and clean up their work spaces. Here are a few ways I set up different centers to help my 2nd through 5th grade kids to work independently.

Make it easy for students to help themselves, within limits

When I first set up these places for students to help themselves to construction paper, a student said to me, “Mrs. T, you are getting better every day!” That made me smile! Students were happy to have more choice in their art studio. If you spend time in the beginning of the year showing students how to set up and clean up their workspace, they have more ownership of their work.

Create a basic supply table or space

Right next to the supplies, add photos of how the materials and tools should look like when put away properly. This helps students know exactly what “cleaned up” should look like when class is over. You cannot assume that students will know what your expectation of “cleaned up” looks like!

Help students learn how to be independent and responsible

Obviously, re-teach and review procedures as needed. As teachers, we can determine what each class needs and which students might need more practice or direction. Steps can be listed on the wall of the center, or you can create smaller versions for students to take to their workspace. 

Create videos to ensure each class gets the same instructions

If you need to re-teach, you could do it “live, in person” for a small group, or just show the video to the whole class again. Try to keep your videos three minutes or less. It is better to make two shorter videos than one big, long one.

Sharp pencils and the “sharpen me” basket

This cuts down on, “I need to sharpen my pencil” requests. Set up your pencils this way! Have a bucket with sharp pencils, and a basket for pencils that need sharpening. Students can take a sharp one, when they return it, they need to decide where it should go!

Have other students help when their classmates need a reminder

Many times, when a student asks me where something is (or where it should be put away), I don’t answer if this is something they should know. Nearby students help their friend! Bonus: I am no longer the only “teacher” in the room!

About the Author

Amy Traggianese has been an elementary visual arts educator in CT since 1995. A former kindergarten and first grade teacher, she has over 30 years of arts integration experience. Amy specializes in integrating language arts, math, science and technology into the choice art studio. She is an arts integration coach for The Institute for ARts Integration and STEAM. Amy is an active educator voice on Facebook and Twitter and loves a good Twitter chat. Connect with her on social media or at