Art Sells: Kids Still Love Tech-less Projects

Today's classrooms rely heavily on technology, but devices are not the only useful tool in learning. Hands-on activities inspire learning and creativity. With a few materials, kids can build amazing things with their talent. Enrich any lesson with a little time spent on arts and crafts.

When kids create physical products, they can be displayed and act as constant reminders of what they've accomplished. Variations in the projects showcase each individual's talent. These displays serve as review tools and billboards that advertise the learning that is taking place in the classroom. When students and adult visitors see these displays, they will feel immersed in the current units of study.

Every course and grade level can incorporate an arts and crafts project. Science, math, and health students can create posters that diagram a process. Language arts classes can design book covers for a novel or story that has been read. Election posters and timelines are perfect projects to make in social studies courses. Every class can find a way to create visual aids for new terms. Be it a prop or a display during a speech, hand-crafted projects work well with kinesthetic and visual learners. Posters explaining universal themes and life skills can make positive impacts on kids, too, especially when they are kid-created.

Only a few inexpensive supplies are needed in a classroom to construct a creative project. If you have an elementary class, perhaps your students already have their own supplies, but if your students are older, they might be without crayons and glue. Although some kids might surprise you with their arsenal of art supplies, you will want to stock materials for in-class use.

Markers are a must! Whether they are scented or washable, sometimes all a child needs for inspiration is a little color! Students can get creative with colored pencils and crayons too. The type of paper you will be using can help you decide which writing utensil is best. Keep scissors and glue sticks accessible. Store a bundle of old newspapers or a stack of used magazines in a crate. Use these for gathering pictures to make a collage or for collecting words when identifying parts of speech. (When you use printed materials like these, limit the number given to each student. You'll have to monitor their use, as some minds can wander off-task by reading articles or hunting for the project's paradigm artifact.) The meticulous mind always appreciates access to rulers and protractors, but when these aren't available, practice problem-solving skills with the straight edge of a book or the bottom of a water bottle.

Keeping supplies organized helps maintain your inventory and manages time. Similar items can be sorted in bins and pulled out individually as needed. If students will be working in small groups, consider keeping sets of supplies in a dozen or so pencil boxes. This makes passing out and collecting supplies easy. (Teachers can add fun-shaped erasers or gel pens to the box for a special surprise to get the creative juices flowing!)

Before students begin their projects, make sure they have been given clear objectives and written instructions. A posted example of a final product is always helpful, too. Gauging the amount of time needed for a project is always a challenge the first time it is used in a lesson. Set a target amount of time for the project to be completed. If possible, keep the running time displayed for the class to see, that way everyone is collectively aware of when the deadline will arrive. Remember to add these projects (or pictures of them) to your lesson portfolio. This will help you in subsequent years because they will serve as examples for your students and artifacts for your reflection. These projects are assessments of not only your students' learning but also your classroom management abilities.

While the project itself may not be a group effort, everyone should play a part in straightening up the classroom once the project time is over. Reserve time for clean-up and enlist volunteers to help. Students can be in charge of inventorying supplies, picking up the floors, and moving desks and chairs back to their proper places.

A box of art supplies can lead to thinking outside of the box. Who is the artist in your class? Who is gifted in design and craftsmanship? Challenge your students to enhance their learning with a little marker magic and a lot of wisdom wizardry!