No Excuse for Not Including Art in the Classroom

By Leah Eslinger Shaw

By Leah Eslinger Shaw, Shippensburg Area Middle School

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need a reminder of the immense pressure placed on teachers by parents, administrators, school boards, and the general public. In recent years, many early childhood and early primary grade classrooms have experienced a shift from play-based, creative learning to an academically rigorous curriculum. As I have explained to many frustrated parents, ‘kindergarten is the new first grade’. So, how do you satisfy stakeholders, while providing opportunities for creative expression in your classroom? Let go of excuses and allow your students’ creativity to shine!

Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time

Ahhh. A classic. I am guilty of using this phrase at least once a week. When it comes to creative expression, don’t feel pressured to plan a formal art lesson. Simply offer art supplies in an uncluttered and inviting space. Art centers are a magnet for certain students. Others may need an invitation to explore.

Another option is to link an art project to your curriculum. Always consider a creative outlet before pencil and paper tasks. Counting, shape identification, classifying, and measurement all pair nicely with whatever art supplies you have on hand. Offer a related craft activity after story time. Keep it simple, and remember that the process is more important than the product for young children.   

Excuse #2: I Don’t Have Materials

Consider non-traditional art supplies:

  • Nature - sticks, mud, leaves, tiny flowers, tree bark
  • Household Objects - ice cubes with food coloring, forks, sponges, dry pasta, tea bags, cotton balls, clothespins, Q-Tips, rice
  • “Trash” - toilet paper rolls, tissue paper, egg cartons, bubble wrap

This is just a sampling of low/no cost items to add to your art center. Head over to the Becker’s Pinterest page for some amazing seasonal art projects incorporating some of these items. Also, feel free to put the supplies out and let the children decide on the project. You may be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with.

Excuse #3: I’m Not Artistic

Psssst! Kids don’t care.

You don’t need to sound like Adele to sing during circle time. You don’t need ballet experience to do the Hokey Pokey. You don’t need to be a classically trained artist to encourage children to create. In fact, showing your own willingness to try something new and take risks yourself may encourage some of your more reluctant classroom artists.

Let go of those excuses and help foster creativity in your classroom!

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Since graduating from Juniata College in 2008, Leah has worked as a Learning Support Teacher, Life Skills Support Teacher, Instructional Coach, and is currently teaching 6th Grade ELA and Social Studies at Shippensburg Area Middle School. When not busy teaching or scouring Pinterest for teaching ideas, Leah enjoys reading, baking healthy treats, and practicing yoga. She currently resides in Greencastle, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter.  

The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Becker’s School Supplies as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.