The Clean-Up Map

Full view of Clean-Up Map

One of the most challenging areas of classroom management for many art specialists is the last five minutes – clean up.  I was frustrated with students who “got lost” on their way to wash their hands (aka socializing with friends), so I developed a “Clean Up Map” to  help students find their way.

I started by creating and laminating a large (about 3′ x 3′) map (like a treasure map) with a line leading to “X” marks the spot. It was so large that my school laminator couldn’t handle it so I had to go to Office Max (50% off lamination for teachers in August).


Attach Velcro to map and tasks and again to front of tasks and back of numbers for sequential steps

Photograph clean up tasks – add description over photo

Next, Photo and laminate examples of clean up tasks. (Photo children sitting at a clean table, washing hands, turning in artwork to drying rack, etc.).  

Add Velcro to back side of picture and tabs along the Clean Up Map route.  

Add numbers with additional Velcro to front side of clean up tasks to show sequential steps  If time allows, I set up the map sequence before class, otherwise, I set it up with the children watching and go over it at the same time reinforcing the clean-up routine for the day.  


When the map is completed the table gets X marks the spot.

When the map is completed each table gets an "X marks the spot".

I also use giant laminated X’s (one for each table) to hand to one student (or assign older students to retrieve) when all students at their have completed the clean up map. I allow X marks the spot tables to get in line first as positive reinforcement.  Getting the X for each table seems to be the best part of the clean up routine for the students.  The best part of the map for me is a far more orderly end to class – the only drawback is keeping the kids from running to finish their clean up faster=:)

Theresa McGee

Hello! My name is Theresa McGee and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator teaching in Hinsdale, Illinois. My curriculum is structured around creative thinking and technology integration into the learning process. I have authored eighteen articles for the Tech4ArtEd Column in SchoolArts Magazine and several iTunes U courses for professional development. I've presented at the state and national levels including several online webinars for art educators. In 2010, I was awarded Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year and in 2011 I was awarded the national PBS Teacher Innovator award. I love to share ideas that contribute to the art education profession!


  • October 31, 2008

    Jessica H.

    I love the idea of a clean-up map! The last five minutes of class always seem like social hour, where for every one child cleaning up, there are 5 talking and not helping! I think that this is a great way to keep students engaged and on task! Thanks for the idea!!!

  • November 1, 2008

    Carrie L

    What a cool idea! I also love the thought of being able to change the clean up steps depending on the materials you are using – we all know that cleaning up from paint or clay is much different than a coloring project!


  • November 2, 2008

    Brooke N.

    Thanks for the great idea! I made one last week after your presentation at the conference, and the kids love it! It saved me from repeating myself a million times on what they should be doing during clean-up.

  • April 23, 2009

    Melanie Hutchinson

    Now that is using a visual to its full potential- laughing but loving it!

  • August 20, 2009


    Cute. I hope it works.

  • […] personal favorites: The Clean-Up Map – Inspired by Dora the Explorer (yes, kids CAN follow […]

  • […] love my Clean-Up Map, but what I don’t love is keeping track of the tables who cleaned up adequately and […]

  • July 21, 2011


    This is an awesome idea! I am going to try to come up with another type map theme for my 6/7/8. I just stumbled upon this site. I will be visiting often, and hopefully have some ideas for others to pass on.

  • August 28, 2011


    Hi Theresa.
    Do you use this map with every class, Even K’s, every single time?
    What is the “Prize” or the X for?
    Lining up? What if no one cleans up?
    How can everyone read and see it?
    Do you do any other reward system in addition to this?

  • Hillary Andrlik + Theresa McGee
    August 30, 2011

    Theresa McGee

    It was Kindergarten that originally inspired me to create the clean up map – so yes, I do use it with them. Although, once we have a routine down, it doesn’t take much explanation – they just see and do. Most can see it from where they are sitting, but if they can’t, I allow them to walk up to the map to get a closer look.
    The prize for getting the “X” is a signal to me that the table has completed all the tasks and is ready for me to assign them line up order. I have clean up map monitors (3rd grade an up) determine the line up order, giving me a chance to focus on other things going on in the room.  Amazing how getting in line first is a huge motivator for even the older kids.
    I found that giving out prizes doesn’t really change behavior for the better so I don’t do that.  Instead, I will throw in a motivator as needed such as Magic Pocket Name or Website of the Week.

  • October 12, 2011

    Marianne from Kid @ heART

    I love this Cleaning Map. Will definitely have to create one for my classroom. My art room is so small…and a map like this could really help the kids pack up and remain fairly settled in such a small room. Thanks for sharing!

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