Magic Garbage

When your students are working on messy projects that leave tons of paper scraps on the floor consider using the Magic Garbage technique to motivate a super fast clean-up. I learned this tip from my colleagues in my masters cohort and it works beautifully with my elementary students.

When it’s time to clean up, explain to the class that you picked one piece of garbage on the floor to be the “Magic Garbage”. Who ever picks it up while cleaning will earn a prize!

A prize can be anything that’s motivating to your students such as candy, stickers, stamps, free time, computers or line leader. In my room we use a ticket system where students earn a ticket. Each ticket is placed in a box and after a few art classes several tickets are randomly drawn from the box like a raffle. The students with winning tickets drawn from the ticket box get to select a price from the prize box.

Now here is were the magic comes in. You really don’t have to mark a particular piece of garbage with a sticker or anything else. You simply watch the class as they busily clean and then award the ticket to the student you think worked the hardest at cleaning. Sometimes I award the ticket to a student who worked really hard on their art for the entire class period. Of course, if you want, you can mark a particular piece of garbage with a sticker. The risk with doing that is if a student immediately finds the sticker there’s no extra motivation for the whole class to keep cleaning.

This is a great system for those situations where there is a time crunch. It also works in any setting where cleaning will be a big job. Magic Garbage is a simple technique that encourages a fast and through clean-up anytime you need it.

(Side note: Some of my cohort colleagues had different names for this technique like lucky trash, secret garbage or prize piece of trash. If you have used this technique or start using it soon, leave a comment and let us know what you named it!)

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

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