Creating a Classroom Environment for Art Instruction

Instructor: Alicia Taylor

Alicia has taught students of all ages and has a master's degree in Education

A well-planned classroom environment helps students feel engaged and excited about the visual arts. Read these suggestions on rules, room arrangement, and instruction that will help students feel enthusiastic about going to art class.

Aspects of the Classroom

We all know that our setting affects our mood. If we step into a dimly lit room, we feel scared. If we step into a flower garden filled with sunshine, we feel happy. And, if we step into a classroom where the teacher is able to effectively lead her students through a lesson, we feel inspired.

Both art students and teachers benefit from a classroom setting that is organized, productive, and supportive. Classroom rules, arrangement, and teaching methods create an environment that encourages students to enjoy and appreciate the visual arts.


Creating a list of classroom rules that are posted clearly will help both the teacher and the student. This is essential to an art class, since creating art is usually such a free activity for children that it can lead to classroom chaos. Students will learn more and have more fun if they have structure and know the limits.

The exact rules a teacher chooses are up to her, but here are a few guidelines for teachers as they form their own rules:

• The posted rules should set a high standard, requiring the most concentration and order the teacher will want from the students. Teachers can then allow exceptions to these rules for certain days or tasks.

• The teacher should create a Nuclear Option in case the volume or behavior gets out of hand (e.g., ringing a bell, standing in the front of the room, writing ''Quiet'' on the board, etc.). Whatever the signal, the students should know it means they must immediately quiet down and give the teacher their attention.

Even more important than rules governing when students can talk are rules governing how they can talk. On the first day of class, students should be guided through how to talk about their peers' work. This is an extremely important part of creating an encouraging classroom environment. Students should feel safe to create, which means they should feel that their creation will be accepted by both teacher and classmates.

Students should be encouraged to limit their comments to

• compliments (e.g., ''Those feathers are amazing.''),

• answers to questions (e.g., ''No, I don't think it needs any more blue.''), and

• encouraging suggestions (e.g., ''It would be cool to make that a night-time scene.'').

Both the rules for classroom discipline and rules for commenting on other students' work should be written somewhere in view of the students.


Classroom presentation

The arrangement of the classroom can help foster creativity. In order to make creation a smooth process, students should be able to locate supplies easily.

If supplies are stored in a cabinet, the drawers or shelves should be labeled. If students are in kindergarten or 1st grade, it may be wise to include an image of each supply on the label. Whenever possible, it is helpful to encourage students to retrieve and return the supplies themselves. Students who can select the supplies they want will be forced to think actively about which materials would work best for bringing their imagination to life.

Art Presentation

In addition to having a place for supplies, the art classroom must have a space for showing student art. A wall of ''Student Masterpieces'' or table where completed projects are displayed will give the students a sense of pride in their work.

Additionally, on the last day of a project, students love having a five-minute silent art show at the end of class. In order to hold a silent art show, tell all students who want to participate to set their project face-up on their desks. They can have five minutes to walk around and look at their classmates' art. They are allowed compliment others by giving thumbs up. If the teacher hears any words, she will end the art show and send them back to their seats.


The way that the teacher delivers instruction and interacts with her students will shape the way they see their future creative endeavors. Teachers should bring their own creativity into the classroom.

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