Art Education

How to keep students engaged in art class before winter break

Do you notice your students getting a little squirrelly before winter break? It might not be the best time to launch into a complicated project, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep students engaged with interesting and fun activities.  

We asked art teachers around the country for their favorite pre-break projects (clay was a big winner!) and tips for helping kids stay focused. Here’s what they had to say. 

Teachers’ favorite pre-break art projects  

  • Clay projects always keep them engaged! –Jen W. 
  • I like to do the projects that the students want to do the most so they will really want to work daily. We are doing clay before Thanksgiving break! –Kate S.
  • I like to do clay to keep students engaged, this also allows the clay to dry over the winter break. –Angel L. 
  • I like to add a sculpture project and a free choice class! –@minimonetsart 
  • I save our clay project for the month before break. It’s always a favorite and they like making things they can give as gifts. While they wait between firings, I have them make snow people out of tissue paper balled up with glue and various scraps. –Lori-Ann M. 
  • Engage them by creating your own wonderland outside or inside your classroom with a North Pole theme or elf theme. After they finish their assignment, have them work on that extra fun project! –@artistacruzramirez 
  • I love to have my student artists make mini masterpieces. There is something about working small keeps them engaged. –Trudy P.
  • We create watercolor ornament art or watercolor holiday cards. This is the only time I allow a glitter station. They love it, but I see glitter everywhere the rest of the year. –Becky T. 
  • I always do painting in the second quarter, right up to winter break. Students love painting, especially when I teach them new techniques, like blending colors or using textures. Sometimes art is magical, and these tricks keep them inspired when they are a little too excited for the holidays! – Jenni F. 
  • I like to use watercolor in playful patterns since I work with people with physical challenges. It all works out differently but they love the results. –Maureen B. 
  • I like to try new and unusual materials. I teach high school and it is fun to paint using cocoa (as long as there are no allergies). –Heidi L. 
  • Before winter break, students create ornaments to take home, while still incorporating art curriculum! –@studio_siegel
  • I love to do snow and cold-weather-related projects like birch forests or beaded icicle ornaments since, in Louisiana, many of my students have never seen snow. The aura of the exotic lends excitement, and sometimes we do have hot chocolate to bring in January. –Michelle O. 
  • Students have a choice of multiple projects with winter and holiday themes — some 2-D and some 3-D. The 3-D snowflakes are popular. –Susan S. 
  • As students finish projects, I make salt dough and I bring in cookie cutters and they make salt dough ornaments. This and the cork snowmen ornaments have been popular enough to motivate kids to finish required work. I was surprised how many middle schoolers had never made salt dough. –Dyan P. 
  • I like doing projects with snowmen and penguins. Sometimes I have them work together on large snowmen and penguins. I love it when they learn from each other. I have some students that put legs on their snowman like Frosty. I have also done gnomes. –Angela Z. 
  • My second through fifth-graders are set up to travel around the world! I have 11 tables with different countries and inspirational artwork from that culture. They are so excited for it! We made passports where they keep their work and get a passport stamp from me when they complete a country. I get to put out so many different materials and let them have so much freedom and choice! I have a couple of reels up and will post work as we “travel”! Amazing engagement, zero behavior issues! –@patti.holcombeart
  • I love using crayons as wax resist. They think it is magical! –Natalie K. 
  • Make it about THEM. I like to challenge my middle school students to create pieces about themselves, their interests, their strengths and their personalities. As individuals, we make the world more colorful. –Greg S.

Spend less, create more

Find high-quality paint, paper, pencils, and more that fit your lessons — and your budget. 

At the beginning of a new school year it’s important to plan ahead, set goals for projects, and gather must-have art supplies that will keep your students engaged.

Tips for keeping kids engaged in creating art 

  • Finding a theme the kids can get behind works best for me. I find out student interests and allow for the most flexibility of the assignment. –Amy Lynn K. 
  • I try to get to know my students and show genuine interest in what they have to say and what they like. My lessons are all connected to art history or skill building. –Crystal V. 
  • I love keeping students engaged by incorporating themes that are relevant to them or causes that they are passionate about. I also give very basic instructions to allow for plenty of student-centered creative freedom. I’m absolutely loving my first year as an art teacher! – Marianna S. 
  • I love playing Christmas music in the background as students work. It makes it so much fun when they sing along! –Michelle C. 
  • I love playing music while students work. When they are really engaged in their work they start to sing along to the music! –Pam G. 
  • Less talk, more art, good tunes, and more choice and voice in their projects. –@ huntleyart158 
  • Engage students with new techniques and allow students to choose what they want to create. Take lots of pictures of their work along with praising them for their masterpiece. Allow flexible seating and have lots of fun with Christmas music playing! – Priscilla Marie J. 
  • Engage students with new techniques and allow students to choose what they want to create. Take lots of pictures of their work along with praising them for their masterpiece. Allow flexible seating and have lots of fun with Christmas music playing! – Priscilla Marie J. 
  • I try to keep students engaged before winter break by showing joy in being able to see my students, being excited about the projects we are creating, and changing up the materials we are using! –Hannah M.
  • I think the best way to keep students engaged is to make sure they are always having fun. We often have holiday stress and our students aren’t immune to that. We should remain patient with them and with ourselves and build them up so they’re always encouraged and motivated to create amazing artwork. –@art_with_ms.salas 
  • I try to incorporate some kind of full body movement into the process, so they aren’t just sitting all of the time. Taking their project from station to station, adding to it with interesting materials, and socializing as they go are boredom busters. –Beth J. 
  • One of the best tips for keeping students engaged before winter break is to reward good behavior with little gifts. For example, like a free pack of colored pencils, or a drawing pencil and an eraser and so on. –Laura H. 
  • Fun and seasonal projects in between the hard projects and Halloween candy, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate to celebrate the season. –Natasha B. 
  • I like to have my students work on group projects so that they can learn to function as a team and prepare them for future art competitions. – Xavier G.
  • They love anytime we add food to art, such as eating apples while doing a still life. –@alishachbangbang 
  • What I’ve found really keeps students engaged is offering them a lot of choice. If it’s before a break, giving them two choices on what the class would want to work on next can help them have some input, and then once the project starts, give them guidelines but just as much freedom. Freedom can be in the subject matter of their art, the materials they use, etc.! Lots of choices that allow for them to be leading their learning is what will keep them engaged. – @jennyreciooo 
  • To keep students engaged, offer a variety of themes, processes, techniques, and choices. Choice boards are extremely valuable, as you offer the students choices on one Google Slide. –@ purplechickenartroom

Keep celebrating your wins 

No matter which projects you choose before break, know that your hard work is expanding students’ creative abilities, helping them de-stress, and creating a safe space for them during the school day. Read more about the benefits of art education in “Top 5 reasons art education is important (according to teachers.”

How to keep students engaged in art class before winter break

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