1. You have one shot at getting the right planner for the year. Art teachers like Planbook, a web-based lesson planning system that encourages students, administrators, and other teachers to interact with a teacher’s plans. Try it free for thirty days. Erin Condren Planbooks are also highly thought of. This planner, similar to the Eric Condren ones, also came recommended and is sold on Amazon.

  2. A tip from art teacher Leah Lukovic. “For teachers on a weekly rotation -I don’t know why it took me 10 years of teaching art to figure this out, don’t start your rotation on a Monday! Right now I have Thursdays as the “new lesson” day and it’s saved me so much stress. No more Sunday jitters thinking about what I’m teaching because I just continue that on Monday-Wed!”
  3. Art teacher Teresa Anasagasti starts the year with an art room scavenger hunt to acquaint them with the art room and where things are located. “I get to just sit back and watch as they figure out where everything is!” she shares.
  4. Use magazine pages as palettes! Skip plastic palettes and use old magazines. The student squeezes the paint onto the top page and uses it for a period, mixing it on the magazine page. At the end of the period, you rip off the page, fold it in half and toss it in the garbage can.  Quick and easy! Another clever teacher uses the laminator scraps from her school’s laminator.
  5. Art teacher Celeste Joy Bowman recommends painting the end of your paint brushes with different nail polish colors (others use spray paint) for fast organizing instead of looking at tiny numbers or trying to look at brush size. She adds, be in a well-ventilated area when marking your material.
  6. Make cleaning up a fun contest and use a smart board timer.
  7. Use “Turn and Talks” in your art room.  Turn and talk is an instructional routine in which students use content knowledge during a brief conversation with a peer. Students are provided with a short prompt to discuss content or skill. Students turn to their predetermined partner and answer the prompt while their partner listens. As one teacher observed, “This technique has been partially effective since COVID. Kids are more withdrawn and less likely to share.” What does this look like in the art room? “How does the artwork make you feel, what do you think the artist was trying to say?”
  8. Try to have students document a project using a time-lapse recording.
  9. Clay teachers, ditch canvas for placing in tables. ICanvas gets dirty quickly and needs frequent laundering. Try flexible, inexpensive, flexible, and easy-to-clean kitchen mats like these mats found on Amazon. Comes out to be a little bit more than a dollar each
  10. Jazz up your art room with a color wheel clock.

  11. Is Grid drawing in your future? If so, save yourself by using this online tool for gridding the photos. Or, use the diamond method.
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  12. Now, why a company can’t make glue sticks with a tethered lid is beyond me. Until they do, make one of these holders for glue sticks. Glue the lid in, student takes the glue stick with no lid and returns it to the holder w/lid when finished. I’ve seen this done with sharpies and it’s a great method for glue sticks as well. Another teacher saves the caps from water bottles which thread on her glue sticks perfectly. And lastly, another strategy is to toss the glue stick when empty and save the caps for when goes missing.
  13. Art teacher Christine McLaughlin O’Malley shared this hack. Store push pins in the bottom of your sliding glass display cabinets! No one will see them and you have one less thing to carry around when you change out artwork. I’ve done this for years but just thought I was lazy but now it’s a clever hack thanks to Christine McLaughlin O’Malley.

  14. Middle school art teacher Jennifer Balsiger shared this hack (first and second image below) to help students set up for class. “I project a LARGE visual of what their setup should look like, and it saves TONS of time!” she shares.
    Similarly, art teacher Brittany Bass created visuals for supplies needed instead of writing it out, especially helpful for her kindergarten but effective for really any age I think. You can finder her illustrations (third and fourth picture below but she has more) sold on Etsy.
  15. One thing you can count on is the overwhelming feeling that comes with back-to-school. Take inspiration from art teacher Carla McElroy who spent some time before school starts prepping outfits. In her closet, she has 41 pre-hung outfits with all the accessories. And before you ask, those overalls in picture one can be found here. Another teacher shared she takes a selfie in the outfits she likes and saves them in a folder on her phone. If she can’t think of something to wear, she can refer to her photos for inspiration.

  16. Becca Diane developed paintbrush holders for her students to check out. She writes, “I am trying to teach my high school kids to be more responsible with their materials. Paintbrushes are somewhat expensive items on my budget, so I assign these numbered packets of paintbrushes to a student at the beginning of the year and put that number next to their name in my attendance book. It is explained to them that they are their responsibility, and if anything goes missing, is not taken care of properly, or does not work that well anymore (due to lack of taking care of them) the paintbrushes will not be replaced. I’ve done this for 3 years now and it has worked beautifully!”

  17.  Early finishers are the bane of art teachers everywhere. Art teacher Becca Weizz has a plan that we should all steal in my opinion. She turned a bulletin board into a giant coloring page for her early finishers with an ink dauber and poster board.

  18. I can’t even tell you how many clothes I ruined in my first year of teaching. One technique I developed was keeping some space between myself and the table so I didn’t come in contact with areas the student may have gotten paint on. The second is to buy a good apron with pockets. And feel free to customize them. Embroider them, buy cool iron on patches, stencil them, etc.  Here are some art teacher favorites. Click on the images to find where you can purchase them.
  19. I saw this done by an art teacher and thought it was clever. The art teacher took a photo of each table with the students at the table holding a paper with their names. Then she placed all the photos on one sheet of paper. It helps her learn their names and do attendance quickly.
  20. Time management is an essential skill for an art teacher. You have to have a system for knowing when it’s clean-up. Online Stopwatch has over a dozen fun-themed timers for counting up and counting down time. Or, set your smartphone for a reoccurring alarm coordinating with all the times for class clean-up.

Have a back-to-school hack to share? Do so in the comments, we’d love to hear it.