Art room systems make me overjoyed because they save valuable time. And they’re a great way to streamline big and small tasks. Over the course of my career, I’ve developed strategies to cut down on wasted time and reduce teacher burnout. One of my favorite art room systems pertains to end of year routines. Another is end of the year supply ordering. My goal is to leave on the last day of school on time and prepped for the Fall.
Art Room Systems
When I tell other teachers it takes 45 minutes to set up my art room in the Fall, I get the same reaction: “Huh? How is that possible?”
I get it. You doubt me! I would, too. But it’s true.
I’m all about making life easier and sharing my ideas. These tips are designed specifically for art teachers. But classroom teachers can adapt and apply some of these concepts for their own use, too. Because let’s be honest, what teacher really wants to spend their Summer doing these tasks when they can be with their family or friends enjoying their vacation?
10 Things to Prep Before Summer Break
1) Bulletin Boards: I contemplate ideas for my hallway bulletin board right after Spring break. I use a secret Pinterest board to gather ideas. If I need to draw and cut images or letters, I begin immediately. There are some art projects that require less of me than others. It’s during those lessons that I will draw the pieces. If I have early finishers, I have them assist with the cutting. They love helping so why not put them to work?
During the last week of school, I re-paper the board. Then I quickly put up all the parts and cover it with large plastic bags. The kids (and adults) walk past my board the last week of school wondering what could possibly be underneath. It’s a mystery until the Fall!
2) Lesson Plans: Lesson planning is the last thing I want to do at the end of the year. But it’s honestly one of the first things I’m thinking about. The end of the school year is the best time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Because let’s be honest, after two months off, who in their right mind is being realistic with beginning of the year expectations? I get all pie-in-the-sky with ideas. And sometimes I find myself questioning if that ineffective lesson was really that bad when I know it was.
Planning in advance removes the opportunity to be overly idealistic. Even if writing lesson plans is too much, jotting down a map of ideas, concepts, and projects for the Fall would be a great use of time. Once you know some of the projects you’ll be doing, you can prep for them in advance. Cut paper for specific projects. Make cardboard looms. Prep sketchbooks. Do those repetitive tasks now and save your energy later.
3) Supply Bins: Fill ’em up and clean ’em out! During the last week of school, I limit the materials I’m using to the simple things: one bin each of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Then I pick students to help clear out all the other bins. They find dead and cap-less markers, empty glue sticks, and plastic bags with holes in them. At the same time, I’m re-stocking any bins with any extra materials I currently have on hand. Doing this helps with my supply order. This is a great way to teach students how to respect the art materials.
4) Worksheets & Handouts: Every year there are a handful of items I repeatedly make copies of including art critique sheets, seating chart templates, and reward coupons and certificates. These are cornerstones in my art classroom. I use some of the same resources in many grade levels I teach throughout the school year. So it only makes sense to get them copied when less people are jamming the photocopier.
5) Paper Storage: I don’t know about you, but I have a much easier time figuring out how much paper I need to place an order for if I fill up the paper storage shelf. My shelf allows for both 9″ x 12″ and 12″ x 18″ paper. So I cut whatever remaining paper I have and fill it. Then I wrap that sucker in plastic so it doesn’t get dusty. This is by the easiest of the art room systems that requires little time or preparation.
6) Fix-er-Uppers: You know that pile of broken brush handles that need to be glued to the brush heads you have sitting around collecting dust? Or the broken paint or glue pump you’ve ignored for awhile because you’ve not been using it and, heck, it’s one more thing to fix? You’ll appreciate it being in good working use in the Fall.
7) Clean: Art rooms are the messiest. Run a finger anywhere in the room and you’re bound to sport a half inch of chalk/clay dust and debris. And while many art teachers have the attitude that this is commonplace and accepted, I’m honestly not one of them. I make an effort all year long to run a wet rag over ledges and take a broom to the crevices in my classroom. Poor air quality is harmful for students (and adults) with asthma and other health ailments. A pre-Summer break deep clean is the right way to go because let’s be real here, the janitors are not going to dig for the dust. Then in the Fall, take 10 minutes at the end of every week to do one simple choir to maintain it.
8) Plastic. All. The. Things: Any shelves, supply carts and bins, and bulletin boards are covered in plastic to eliminate dust and dirt from getting into them. After all, I’ve spent all that time cleaning them. Why would I want them to get dusty while I’m not there?
9) Organize Your Desk: We care more about maintaining student art projects than we do our own things, including our desk. Everything gets throw inside on a whim. The end of the year is a great time to organize and stock up on things you need before everyone wants that same box of pencils and paperclips at back to school time.
10) Wash or Re-Stock Rags, Sponges, and Cleaning Supplies: I can’t be the only one who has purchased these things over the Summer but forgotten to bring them the first day back to school! Better to do early and remember than late and forget.
First Day Back to School
By the end of the last day, my room is pretty much wrapped in plastic. Over the Summer break, the janitors move everything so they can polish the floors. This also creates a whirlwind of dust, ruining all the cleaning I’ve done, hence the plastic.
In the Fall, I pull off the plastic and pile it up to reuse as table covers when I do messy projects. I move all the furniture back into place and plug in my computer. I pull out anything I tucked away in cabinets like the pencil and eraser containers, project bins, cleaning materials, etc. and put them in place. And in no time at all, my art room is ready. I can concentrate on mapping out the first marking period.
And that’s how I put together my classroom so quickly after Summer break. Art room systems like this enable me to utilize my time more effectively so I can be efficient in completing the necessary end-of-year tasks.
What art room systems do you have in place to make the end of the year easier? I’d love to hear. Drop a comment below. Follow my Art Room Organization board on Pinterest for more tips and tricks. And pin the image below to revisit this post:
Motivating and inspiring, thank you! It’s my first time in middle and I arrived late in the year. My room is an OLD pottery room. Next year I am moving to one of the art rooms next door. A lot to do and tons of cabinets I haven’t looked through. Thank you for the break down of art systems. Very thorough and helpful.
You’re welcome! When I started doing it, it changed my life. Honestly. I felt like my summer was my own. We’ve earned that after a long year, right? I can only imagine how hard that must be to have to move rooms. If you can get into that other room early, DO IT. If not, prep all the other things you can. When I took on this job 15 years ago, it took me a long time (5 years?) to go through things and purge as well as use things up I wouldn’t buy on my own. Once I paired down my room, I was able to put these systems into place. To give you some perspective, I’m leaving my job next year to do this full-time. I’ve already edited my entire filing cabinet and taken home some materials I brought to school but didn’t use. And this week I’m working on my personal books at school. The way to be on time is to be ahead of things. Best of luck with you move to the new room. Sounds exciting!
Are you able to be hired to help do this?
Now that would be quite a job!
Michelle Dague says
Michelle, I totally understand where you are. I have been there not that long ago. I went in two weeks early just to go through every cabinet, organizing on tables. I threw away anything that was damaged, or not wanted and then put things back where I wanted. This gave me the opportunity to see everything that I had, make an order list of things that I needed and discard things that I did not need. (I am one who saves almost everything because you never know when you or someone in your building is going to need it. I am the teacher that everyone in my building comes to first when they need just about anything. Good Luck.
Martha Gilfoil says
That’s the truth! They all come. When I ask “What do you want?”, and have this look! I say, “you never come to my room unless you want something”! I’m happy to share because they share their supplies with me. At my school students bring supplies for their class and not for art. So the classroom teachers pass on wipes, tissue, construction paper etc. Usually left overs from the previous year but I’m not picky so I take it all!
The teacher before me had two size containers with colored paper and numbers on them. On the closet door was a list with the color above and the numbers in order. Next to the number was the contents of the container. This was awesome! If a teacher would come in looking for googly eyes I could quickly go over to the list and find it or they could find it themselves. And of course the three people at school that you need to be the nicest to- the custodians, cafeteria ladies and secretaries. They are in charge-really! They are always helpful when you are kind to them.
BTW This is my 5th classroom and 20 plus years, it takes awhile to go through someones stuff- don’t worry. It will get done. And if it doesn’t-no one will know except you! Have a great school year!
This is great!! I love it!! Thanks for sharing!
Jen Mazur says
I love your bin prep idea and your paper storage too! Great tips. My “tip” for end of school year includes collecting a few art projects from several classes (who are willing to let me keep them through the summer) so I can display art in the halls immediately when we go back in session. (I hate empty halls) I also create my first “back to school” lessons with examples and paper prepped. I store all of this in one place and I don’t feel the traditional pressure during “teacher week” of trying to fit in everything . Instead, I can transition back and really pay attention at the endless meetings because my mind isn’t on “what am I teaching this first week!!??”
Patti Shannon says
My school has their outdoor field day at the end of the year. My supplies arrive early in the month (My secretary makes me order in February, so I have a rough plan for my next year very early!) Many of the older students really don’t love being outside when its Arizona h.o.t. I invite them to come help me with my next year prep. They help with ALL the things you mention, plus my strategy of labeling and numbering EVERY supply. We reinforce crayon boxes with packing tape around the bottom up onto the flap. Students trim the tabs from inside the crayon boxes. I have 8 tables and different tubs of supplies for early elementary and intermediate/middle school. One day, about 12 students, and they get it all done! We work side by side. The littles love using the swiffer and magic eraser on the shelves. What would have taken me days by myself turns into a fun day where the kiddos feel very appreciated and have a sense of purpose! Thanks for the idea of covering with plastic sheets! I always use butcher paper and feel it’s a waste.
Jan Gilliam says
I do all this too!! Here are two bulletin board ideas that I have done that I liked. At the end of the year I saved one class of art work from students and incorporated that into my hall bulletin board. I was in a large school so it took a little time later to be sure the art work was returned to the students. One lesson I liked to do was with first grade at the end of the school year was the Australian hand print where a red stencil of a child’s hand print was sprayed in red on a rock as a record of the child being in that location. Here is how I did the lesson. Explain the legend to children and look at the bright colors and patterns in Australia art. Then children worked with a partner to help trace their handprint on to paper. The child cut their handprint out. Caution students to not make the fingers too skinny and be prepared to do “surgery” with tape. Lay the cutout of the hand on gray construction paper to represent a rock. I tried to have a tape ring ready at the child’s desk to put on the back of the cutout to hold it in place. Students used oil pastels to create colorful Australia style designs. I had one spray bottle of red paint that I circulated around the room for students to spray over their art work and hand print. After a few minutes it is dry enough to remove the hand cutout . And you have a “ record of the child being at that school.” Use that art work with a caption similar to Look Who is Here or Welcome Back I always typed a very brief description of the origin of the art work in very large print that could be read while walking by and placed this at the bottom corner of the bulletin board.
Here is another easy bulletin board idea for the beginning of school:. I was lucky enough to have many large art prints. I would select some and be sure the artist name, artwork name, date, and Country of origin was on the front or I wrote or typed it . The title would be something like Who will be the next ..,,
Kimberly Palmer says
I teach high school art and have the kids help me clean every inch of the room. Cupboards are emptied, wiped, and restocked, every tool washed, every paint and glaze container scrubbed. They also pop all the watercolors out and scrub the palettes clean.
Re-doing the Art books at the end of year and photocopying regularly used items is a great idea. Fingers crossed I push through the “tired” in a week!
Susan Brooks says
I would love ideas to help maintain neat room during the year. I teach 4/5 grade. I have 330 students. I know we will not always finish in one class period (30 min each) and need quick cleanup and storage for their projects.
I wrote this post about cleaning up your room. It’s a good first step. I will ponder tips on keeping up with it as a separate post, there are some tips about keeping up in this post: https://glittermeetsglue.com/marie-kondo-art-room/
The last week of school each grade level paints a welcome to_____ grade banner with the grade they are currently in listed on it. The first day of school they go up in the hallway where the grade level teachers are located welcoming the new batch in with a colorful design. We make, dry and roll these up the last week of school so the hallways have something special the first day. It also helps students find their classrooms that first week until they have the routine down.
That sounds like such a great tradition!
Thanks for this chock full of great ideas post! This was my first year and I came in to an art room that smelled musty and moldy (crayon boxes, etc). Any tips for that? Thanks.
The mustiness might be due to having a sink in your room. I know mine, despite staying on top of it, collects paint in the drain and starts to stink and smell musty. And the mold? Well, I can say that for my room, we definitely have a mold issue. We were hit by Sandy hard. And even though it was cleaned, mold has a way of coming back regardless. Truly if I was in your position, I would start by clearing your room out top to bottom. Pull EVERYTHING out of cabinets and wipe them down. Get rid of things once you have them out. Move all the furniture and clean behind them. Use Draino in your sinks. Any materials like crayons that are in boxes can be put in ziplock baggies and recycle all the boxes. Go through the paper stack. If you have old paper, see if any of it is growing mold. I know when I finally got back into my room six+ months after Sandy, I found moldy paper amongst the piles. And warped paper that had been wet. Lastly, if your art room is like mine, you’re next to a bathroom (because the plumbing for your sink came from that same pipe as the bathroom). There could very well be a slow leak from that pipe in the wall. Five years after Sandy, another room in my school had that issue. Water from Sandy sat in the walls making the adjoining room cold and musty. In the end, art teachers notoriously do not have the best cleaning practices and often forget about kids with allergies and breathing problems. It sounds like you might have inherited such a room. But you can take steps to make it better. Best of luck to you!