Classroom Management Ideas

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Classroom Management Ideas

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Art Centers

My Art Activity Centers
One of my goals going into my second year of teaching was to better establish activity centers in my classroom. With the intention of being used when students finish early or on days when I had a sub in my room; I designed my centers to allow students to more independently explore different techniques and materials.
It's really important to me that my students fully understand the expectations that I have for each center activity and its cleanup procedures, so every first week with my students (I see them for one week straight, and then get a new class the next week), I've dedicated two full days for rotating among centers.
On the first day of center rotations I have my "helping hands" help pass out my center boxes to each table, and then spend the first 10 minutes or so of class going around to each table and explaining how each center works to the entire class. I explained to them that since they would be rotating to each center eventually, they needed to make sure that they were listening to my explanation for each center so they would know exactly what to do when they got there! On these days I had my students fully cleanup their centers before I allowed them to rotate to the next one so that I could ensure that each group knew my cleanup expectations (this took up more of our class time... but it was time well invested).

Ms. Gram's Art Centers:
  1. Texture Rubbing Center:
    At the texture-rubbing center students are given the opportunity to experiment firsthand with creating ‘implied textures’ on a piece of paper. ‘Texture’ is the way that something feels, but ‘implied texture’ is the illusion of something having texture (it appears to have texture with your eyes… but you cannot feel it).

    Center Directions:
    1. Choose a textured surface or rubbing board and place upright on the table (so the textured side is facing up).
    2. Place a piece of paper overtop of the textured surface.
    3. Using an unwrapped crayon from the bag included in the center box, students will lay the crayon on its side and rub it against their paper. As students do this, the texture from underneath the paper will start to appear.
    4. Students may repeat this process with additional colors to layer overtop or may experiment adding different textures overtop. The front and back side of the paper may be used.
    5. Students should limit the amount of paper (to about 3 sheets) they use so that students coming behind them may have paper to use as well.
    6. Students may use this paper at the origami center if they would like.

  2. Origami Center:
    At the origami center students are free to browse the provided origami books and create what they would like. In this center students get to explore form, shape, symmetry, pattern, repetition, fractions, sequence, geometry, spatial reasoning, and much more.
    Origami is not just about folding birds; it is about incredibly detailed spatial problem solving.
    **If you are interested in origami... check out this amazing TED Talk video!!

    Center Directions:
    1. Students may take out an origami book and browse through all the paper folding possibilities.
    2. If there is no paper in the accompanying origami paper box, students should use the paper they created at the texture-rubbing center for their origami (this is why the texture rubbing center paper is cut 6”x6”). 
    3. At this center it is okay if students create things such as fortune tellers, paper airplanes, or ninja stars. *Paper airplanes may NOT be flown in class however.

  3. Stamping/Printmaking Center:
    At the stamping/printmaking center students are able to explore the possibilities of printmaking, color mixing, and creative thinking.

    Center Directions:
    1. Get out a piece of paper from the paper bag included at the center.
    2. Get out a stamper from the box (soufflĂ© cup with Styrofoam plate glued on) and using any combination of colored markers, color the Styrofoam plate.  The pigment from the marker will bead up on the surface of the Styrofoam- this is normal. **Students may experiment mixing colors by using certain color combinations… for example coloring one half yellow and one half blue.
    3. Placing your fingers on both the inside of the soufflé cup and the edge of the cup, press the stamper (Styrofoam side down) onto your piece of paper adding a good amount of pressure and slightly twist the cup. This ensures the maximum amount of pigment is transferred onto the paper and allows for slight color mixing.
    4. Immediately after printing, wipe the stamper on a wet towel to remove any additional marker from the Styrofoam. 
    5. Then using either markers or crayons, think creatively and transform your printed color circle into something else. For example, the circle could be used as a wheel of a car, the body of a person, a face, the top of a hot air balloon, etc…

  4. Weaving/Sewing Center:
    At the weaving/sewing center students are able to practice simple weaving techniques and/or sewing stiches using the materials provided. While students may not take their creations home with them, this center is used to help refine students’ fine motor skills (and patience) and better prepare them for future weaving/sewing projects.

    Center Directions:
    1. Get out a sheet of black shelf liner and a Ziploc bag of rexlace.
    2. Take out a piece of rexlace and poke it through a hole in the shelf liner. Pull it through until you have about an inch or so hanging out.
    3. Moving a couple holes over, poke the rexlace through another hole (now through the opposite side) and continue until you have run out of space. This is a basic ‘running stitch’.
    4. Students can also hold their piece of shelf liner in half to create the illusion of sewing two pieces of material together and try an ‘overcast stitch’. For this stitch they poke the rexlace through a hole at the top of the folded piece of liner... and then every time they go to poke the rexlace through again, they first bring it back to the front side (see diagram).

      Running Stitch
      Overcast Stitch
  5. Blocks-and-Boards/ Mosaic Center:
    At the blocks-and-boards (mosaic) center students are free to create their own mosaics (larger images created by placing smaller ‘tiles’ together) using magnetic pattern blocks on mini whiteboards.
    Students will continue to build on their geometric organization and spatial relationship skills by experimenting with geometric patterns and shapes and their arrangements. 

    Center Directions:
    1. Students will take out a mini whiteboard and a Tupperware container of magnetic pattern blocks from the center box.
    2. Using the blocks provided, students may design their own images by arranging the geometric shapes together in different ways.
    3. If students wish, they may arrange something on their board with their blocks and have other students at the table guess what they made.

  6. Modeling Clay Center:
    At the modeling clay center students have the opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination and improve dexterity by creating whatever they would like to out of the modeling clay provided. Students are free to explore the endless possibilities of working in three dimensions.

    Center Directions:
    1. Before beginning this center students should clean their hands with hand sanitizer.
    2. Students may use any of the containers of clay in the center to create whatever they’d like. Students may stick different colored pieces of clay together… but they may not squish them together. Different colored pieces of clay should be able to be separated when it’s time to clean up.
    3. There is absolutely no throwing clay at this center. Clay should remain either on the table or in a student’s hands.
    4. Anything made at this center must be returned to its container at the end of class. Nothing made here leaves the classroom.

  7. Reading Center:
    At the reading center students may select to read or look through a book from my in-class book collection (currently near 100 books). I personally selected and bought each book for my classroom based on obvious art connections (color mixing, about the artist, etc…) or because of it’s potential for inspiring art projects.

    Center Directions:
    1. Students may select to read or look through the books available in my bookcase either on the carpet in the front of the classroom or in my zebra print chair.
    2. As students finish with a book, they should be returned to the bookcase with the book title facing outward.
I was so happy to see how much all of my students (1st-5th grade) loved exploring each center and were completely successful with each! It was really great knowing that even with their vast age range, that they were all able to really get into each activity center.
After spending two days rotating through centers with my students, I know that I can completely trust them to do centers on days when I'm out of the classroom.
I do realize however that overseeing centers can be somewhat chaotic because there are so many different activities going on, so to prepare any future subs I created a packet to explain the expectations, directions, and cleanup procedures for each one.


  1. Hi Ms. Gram, lovely ideas for art centers. I am enjoying all of the great ideas on your blog. I have nominated your blog for a Liebster Award! Keep up the great work, I'll be reading! you can see the details on my blog

  2. I tried copying and pasting your link and it says it does not exist! I LOVE your art centers idea and would love access to the link if you still have it!! :)

    1. Hi! I apologize. The packet was turned into a product in my TPT store. I must've forgotten to remove that link from the blog post.
      If you're interested.. you can find it here:


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