Odd Art Jobs

There are 10 minutes remaining in art class and everyone is working hard on their latest art project except for your two chronic early finishers. It never fails that some students work faster then others. When students have extra unfocused time this leaves an opportunity for behavior problems to develop. What can you do with students who finish early?

Since you never know how many students will finish early or how much time will be left in the class you might consider utilizing an “Odd Art Jobs” chart.

What are odd art jobs?

They are all those little things that eat up a lot of time and energy, which could be focused on creating great lessons, grading or helping other students. The art room wouldn’t function if these tasks weren’t completed but really anyone could get them done. An odd job could be anything from sorting scrap boxes to labeling artwork. Another added benefit is that your students take ownership and pride over the art room, its equipment and school displays.

The type of odd art jobs that you let your students do is totally dependent on how your classroom is structured. You should also take into account the characteristics of your student population. One year you may have a amazingly independent group of fifth graders that are responsible enough to look at a check list, pick a job, and complete it without explanation. The next year it might work better to keep the list as a reference tool for yourself then have kids ask you what jobs are available to help. The key is to create a system that works for your art room. In my experience, a one-size-fits all approach never works for education. In my classroom the odd art jobs chart works best for small pockets of early finishers. It’s not a good solution for when an entire class completes a project early. Check out the list of odd art jobs I’ve had students do in my classroom located below.

Odd Art Jobs

  • Wash paint containers with special sponges (Usually I let them use a fun scrubbing tool I pick up at the dollar store.)
  • Sort scrap boxes (I have my paper scraps sorted by color so that it’s easy to access what I need for certain projects or for classroom teachers to borrow.)
  • Count out paper I need for certain grade level projects (For example, if I need 65 sheets of three different kinds of paper for my next kindergarten project I will have a student help count it out for me. This way all I need to do is cut it to size and I have exactly what I need!)
  • Sort marker bins and throw out dry markers (I have the student helpers take a scrap piece of paper and make test marks on it. If a marker is dry it goes to the trash. I might even have them save the marker caps for when students lose theirs during projects. This is a great job for any age level!)
  • Make signs to label different areas of the art room. (I make a list of things I would like labels for as I work around the classroom. You could spend hours labeling your supplies and cabinets. Sometimes I will pre-print the signs and the student helpers will color, cut and attach them. Some examples of signs students have made for me are how to draw book categories, warm colors, in-box, watercolor paint brush sizes and newspaper.)
  • Take down bulletin boards (All of my hallway displays are at student height so I don’t have to worry about step stools. The bulletin boards are also visible from the art room or the office for teacher monitoring. I usually send students out in teams of two or three but no more. And I make sure that they know exactly what to do.)
  • Glue project paragraphs to the back of artwork (I attach a short paragraph describing the art process and what students learned to the back of each project for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. I try to give them as much hands on time as possible so we don’t always get time to glue the project paragraphs to the framed art. This is a great job for early finishers to help with.)
  • Have older kids glue or staple frames to younger kids completed art projects (I usually write the student names on the projects ahead of time. Then all my student helpers need to do is glue or staple the artwork on to the pre-cut frames.)
  • Sharpen pencils (To save time while my classes are drawing I like to have my pencil bucket ready for action. Instead of kids sharpening pencils while I’m talking they simply exchange their pencil for an already sharpened one in the pencil bucket. It cuts down on interruptions and lost work time. So periodically the bucket needs to be sorted and the pencils sharpened.)
  • Make Tracers for other grade level projects (I will make two or three tracers and then have student helpers trace them onto heavy cardboard. Then, I put the cardboard in our parent volunteer bin for the adults to cut out. Takes a little forethought but saves me a lot of time and energy.)
  • Sort classes artwork and stuff portfolios to send home (At our schools we use portfolios to transport art work home about three to four times a year. If I have a larger group of student helpers I will have them sort a particular classes art projects into plies for each kid. Then they simply slip each students art work into the pre-labeled portfolios to send home at a later date.)
  • Set up supplies for the next art class. (I often have little time in between classes to set up new supplies. So I might switch from 3rd grade to 1st grade to 5th grade. Well that’s a large amount of supplies to have out at one time and I don’t have enough counter space. So I will have early helpers take out the materials for the next class and set it up on one counter. Then when the class is over they clean up their art supplies and put them totally away. Now I have a new counter free for that class to set up supplies for the next class following them.)
  • Cleaning tasks (i.e., sweep the floor, erase the board, wipe tables, clean clay tools)
  • Refill art product containers (I will have students that I know can do a good job refill glue bottles, switch watercolor refills or any other job of that type.)
  • Hang bulletin-boards (I usually reserve this job for older students and it is a huge treat for them. Remember, all of my hallway displays are at student height and visible from the art room or the office for teacher monitoring. I usually send students out in teams of two or three but no more. And I make sure that they know exactly what to do. Sometimes I even hang the first three or four pictures so that the student helpers can see what I expect them to do.)
  • Cut out items that have been laminated (I have parent helpers laminate papers for me then I have a cut laminate box located in my room where student helpers can grab some laminate and cut it out.)
  • Empty the drying rack (This is fairly self explanatory but, student helpers will take art work off the drying rack and put it into the proper classes box.)
I won’t have students doing odd art jobs every time they finish early but, it’s a great tool to keep things moving forward while giving your students more responsibility. Make sure to customize it to your classroom and teaching style for the best results. What kind of odd jobs do you give your students? (comment below)
Located below is my “Odd Art Jobs” chart for download. I enlarged the chart onto bright construction paper using the copy machine and then laminated it. With the chart laminated I can use dry erase makers to fill in the information.
Hillary Andrlik

Hillary has been teaching art in the Chicago area since 2002 and was named Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year in 2012 by the Illinois Art Education Association. She received her art education degree from Illinois State University and masters from National Louis University. She is the co-founder and co-author of The Teaching Palette, a blog authored by art educators for art educators, and the digital editor for Illinois Art Education Association. Hillary's teaching strategies and lessons have been featured in numerous media, including School Arts magazine, and she has made several presentations on art education and technology in front of the Illinois Art Education Association and the National Art Education Association. Follow her on Twitter @hilland

10 Comments

  • February 19, 2009

    jan (School_Marm)

    What a fantastic idea!!!!!!!!

  • February 19, 2009

    Craig

    I use to call these types of jobs in my art classroom “slime detail.” It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Actually, my students enjoyed being assigned “slime detail,” and often volunteered.

  • February 20, 2009

    kathy mitchell

    I love this list of job ideas! I usually have the early finishers sweep, and I only have so many brooms to go around!! I will definitely use many of your suggestions to help keep my art room better organized.

  • February 23, 2009

    Katie

    Thank you so much for stopping by my site!! I’m always really curious, but, how did you find it? I am trying to figure out how people are linking to it. As for the Promethean board, it is new to me this year (and really only in the last month or so), and I haven’t learned all the cool things it has yet. But, so far, so good. I want to spend some time this summer learning more about it and researching the art programs it has. For now, it functions as a really great projector when I don’t have a specific print I want the kids to see. I can simply pull it up and show them on the promethean board. As for the program Art Pad, that was recently introduced to me and the kids love it when they have some extra time. Actually, I need to start getting my ‘odd jobs’ more organized so the kids can help with more. Right now, I tend to only trust a few with some of my jobs because they require special instructions. I am still working on these types of organization things, being that I’m new to this particular school this year.

    Thanks again for stopping by. I’m hoping to join Twitter soon, so I’ll have to let you know when I do!

    ~Katie

  • February 23, 2009

    Hillary

    Hey Katie-
    Thanks for answering my Promethean question. And don’t worry about getting the “Odd Art Jobs” in perfect working order right away. It takes a while to get all the organizational systems in your classroom going. Things are always changing and developing. As you get to know your kids, projects and building they will naturally develop. And I discovered your website through a post on Educational Blogs Teachers Should Know / Making Teachers Nerdy http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com/2787268. Congrats! I look forward to “twittering” with you.

    Hillary

  • April 27, 2009

    Terri

    Nice idea! I always try to think of what they can do “on the spot”. Making a chart is a WAY better idea…. :)

    Some tasks I’ve assigned students are:

    Finding and peeling the paper off broken crayons and placing them into a seperate container.
    Cleaning paint brushes and shaping the tips.
    Washing bowls/cups.

  • [...] Laminate all the art print pieces and cut them out. Remember cutting out laminate is a great job for student helpers in the art room (see odd art jobs). [...]

  • [...] Odd art jobs [...]

  • July 8, 2013

    carrie

    In my K-1 classroom I have a classroom library with age level appropriate books kids can “read” if they finish early. I try to keep a mix of fiction/non fiction books and these on topic related to what we are doing in class or the time of the year. I have my stored books sorted so it is easy for me to pull out books on a particular topic. I also check out books from the school library to add to the shelf. I change the books every 4-6 weeks as we change projects. The kids seem to enjoy it.

    I love the idea of other tasks though since some kids have a hard time occupying themselves with a book and spend most of the time changing books. Will have to try this idea this next year.

  • July 17, 2013

    laurie

    Instead of throwing away old markers, you can separate them by color, put them upside down in a cup of water, and after a few days you will have vibrant watercolors!
    Laurie

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