Ten FUN Ideas for First Day of Art Activities (for Virtual Learning or In Person)

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I had a Ceramic class that perpetually had a lot of drops in the first cycle of classes. Most of the reasons were intrinsic to the school I was at and had nothing to do with me. In my efforts to combat the drops, I learned from students that one of the ways to hook the students was by immediately  getting clay into the hands of my students.  Immediately, as in, “Hello, welcome, here’s a ball of clay for today’s class.” And the results were amazing in terms of the energy. Anyone who has ever lived through the First Day of School at a middle or high school can tell you students universally do not want to do is syllabi and classroom rules. By the end of the day, they are simultaneously board silly and exhausted. So, over the years I moved away from that and invested in things that were creative, fun and often hands-on.

Now, this year’s first day may be virtual. And some will be in school. So, I present some activities for art students for the first days of art class that can swing both ways.

  1. Art Style Bingo anyone?  You can use a website like My Free Bingo Cards to play the traditional game with a new twist. You insert the art vocabulary, artists, media, art tools or whatever you are basing your bingo on and the website will generate up to 30 bingo cards for free (above that they charge) and all their cards can be played as virtual bingo games. Prizes? Ideas for virtual learning for students can be found here.
  2. Name that Famous Art Work!  Students are sometimes surprised at how many famous of art works they are familiar with. Collect digital images of iconic pieces of art, pieces that are referenced so often they become part of our shared cultural experience. Like, American Gothic. They may not know the artist or the style but they have probably seen it or the many spoofs on it. You can ask students if they are familiar with it, then ask if anyone can share more information about the piece. After, I like to do a quick education about the art piece and any unusual facts I can dig up. Like, did you know that the farmer in American Gothic was actually Grant Wood’s dentist? As Wood had a bit of a sweet tooth, he spent a fair amount of time at the dentist, where he came to admire his hands and strength. Here is an online game along these lines.
  3. The Creativity Test  The goal of this challenge is to push people to test their creativity by turning circles into recognizable objects in a very short period of time. It’s an oldie and goodie as well as a great exercise in ideation, find a tutorial here.  If you want more creativity challenges, you can find thirty circles and more here.
  4. Teaching a Design Class?  Perfect for a class that is online, in a lab, or even play as a group with the teacher collecting information and inputting. A fun warm up to a logo unit can be found here. My Design Student’s LOVED this. The game takes six minutes and is highly addictive. (Edit: user mentioned that the Playboy logo appears in the game, so be aware and always preview suggestions for your grade level and audience to determine what you feel appropriate.)
  5.  Map Your Heart  Want to learn a little about your students on the first day? Try this “Map out your heart” exercise found here.
  6. Draw a Portrait with Data  Follow designer Giorgia Lupi’s step-by-step instructions to generate a data-driven perspective on the person you know best: you. Her exercise here.
  7. Exquisite Corpse Drawing Game Who doesn’t love the Exquisite Corpse Drawing Game? And if this is new to you, let me introduce you. Here’s a teacher on You Tube who will talk you through the basics and she also talks about how she does this with family and friends digitally, so it’s a “can do” for virtual learning too.
  8. Dot Day!  Did you know that International Dot Day is September 15? Do a warm up with dots. Check out this collaborative project by Zamorano Fine Arts Academy.  Another great one inspired by the work of Wassily Kandinsky can be found at Faber Castell’s blog, here.  Or other dot dat activities on My Art Lesson’s Pinterest Board for Dot Day. Digital ideas here.
  9.  Teacher Trivia. I have to admit, I love NPR’s show Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. They do fun things like Two Truth’s and a Lie. Do a version of this Game about yourself will allow the kids to get to know you and laugh. We all have some good stories, go share them and get the “getting to know you” portion going.
  10. I’m going to bend my own rules and say, do the classroom rules but with memes.