So, earlier this year I mentioned that I was going to do guided sketchbooks with my upper elementary students (3-5). So far I LOVE it! The goal of the sketchbooks was to review skills, introduce skills, and even have some fun. I wanted the sketchbooks to be an activity we did to warm up the creative sides of their brains - much like warming up your voice in music, warming up your body in dance or P.E. I am not sure if it actually warms up the creative side of their brain - but I have noticed it totally focuses the kids.
For the first 4 minutes of every art class the students sit at their seats with low lighting, a sketchbook page and no talking. I decided to have this silent to help their brain switch over, but also to help them focus on doing one task for only a few moments.
When the time is up students attached their newest page to their sketchbook and prepare for instructions.
While some kids love it and some tolerate it - I have found that these simple four minutes do A LOT for the kids and for me that I never intended. For many students that four minutes helps to reset their day/mood. On more than one occasion I have had a student come in hot-to-trot or in tears - whether from a rough day or moment -- those four minutes in low light without talking and doing something creative will often calm them down. It also seems to focus the class as a whole when it is time to work on the current project - they are still themselves, but not quite as revved.
These small four minutes at the beginning of class also provides me with some time to breathe. My classes are back to back - no 5 minutes between classes here, so when one class leaves, another is at my door. While I do my best to prep for the day - sometimes it just doesn't get done, or it can't sit out all day.... blah blah blah. So these few minutes provide me with a second to finish prepping paint, switch out the board with class objectives, or simply take a deep breath.
The sketchbooks have also been great on limiting the amount of free draw paper my students consume! They may freedraw on the backs of the sketchbook pages, or work on old pages.
OH! Also, having this 4 minutes at the beginning of class is great for kids who NEVER finish their projects. Instead of having them do a sketchbook page, they work on their project for those 4 minutes without talking! It is amazing how much they accomplish.
So, how does this all work? Well I started gathering ideas on Pinterest this summer. Then the tough part - how I am going to have time to do all of this?!?! I went back and forth on a few ideas that ranged from pre-done books to index cards -- nothing was going to be fast and cheep. Then from somewhere in the universe the idea came to me. Use normal paper and cut it in half! I wanted to make sure the students had enough room to draw on the same side as the instructions so I cut each paper in half the long way. In word I turned my paper landscape, copy and pasted images from my sketchbook idea page, turned them sideways, and put two on each page. This way I could easily print them from either school. I print what I need for the week, use the automatic 3 hole paper puncher in the lounge (that way the holes always line up), cut in half -DONE. I did have to spend a few dollars at each school buying enough one inch binder rings to hold the whole thing together -- but it seems to work fine.