Art Projects for Behavior Problems

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Are you interested in using art to address behavior management problems in your classroom? This lesson will provide you with ideas for fun and creative art projects that can be used with no special art background.

Why Use Art for Behavior Management?

If you're a classroom teacher, you can never have enough behavior management tools in your toolkit! Consider using art projects to help students:

  • Explore their feelings
  • Identify and alleviate sources of emotional conflicts
  • Increase self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Reduce behavioral problems
  • Enhance social skills

Using art is widely accepted as a means to help students address their behavioral and social deficits. Students can learn and achieve through art. This success can improve their self-esteem and they can apply their newfound confidence in many areas of life.

Art Activities

Many behavior problems in the classroom can be addressed better when students can identify their feelings, express them and use coping skills to manage them. The following art activities will help you and your students with behavior management.

Color Your Feelings

You can help your students recognize emotions by giving different emotions a certain color and using those colors on specific areas of the body. Start by having your students assign a color to different emotions, e.g., red for anger, yellow for happiness, black for fear, etc. Next draw a body outline or a stick figure on a blank piece of white paper. Then discuss certain subjects, people, interests etc. Have students pick the color that represents how they feel, and color where they have those feelings on the figure.

For example, if you have a student who acts out during Math class, bring math up during this activity. They may use red on the head area to show anger and frustration, or black on their chest area to indicate anxiety. This will help you help your student. Understanding how students feel can help you make instructional decisions that can ease their anxiety or frustrations, and therefore their outbursts.

He/She Feels

If it's difficult for students to talk about or even understand their own feelings, sometimes they can project (displace unwanted feelings onto another person) onto a fictional character. Again, you can use a stick figure or body outline for this activity. Have the student name the figure, let them decorate it, color its hair, eyes, clothing etc. Then discuss things that you find concerning with this student. Ask the student how the character they created feels.

For example, if the student has refused to follow directions, tell the student that the character (use the name given to it by the student) has been refusing to follow instructions, and ask the student why the character is doing this. Very often the students will project their emotions onto the character. This activity gives you valuable information on why the student is behaving a certain way.

Coping with Feelings

In the heat of the moment, students can often forget their coping skills. The following activity creates a tangible reminder of what students can do when they feel angry.

Anger Flashcards

Have students come up with three or four different activities/strategies for calming down when they become upset. For example, take five deep breaths, count to ten backwards, time out to a zen spot, squeeze a stress ball, etc. Let students draw and color the activities on flashcards. If possible, laminate the cards for longevity. When students feel themselves getting angry, they can pick a flashcard to use to calm down.

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