Art Education

21 back-to-school art projects to kick off the year!

New faces, fresh art supplies, and a million possibilities — the start of the school year is such an exciting time! We asked art teachers across the country to tell us how they like to start the year and they offered collaborative art, portraits, clay ideas, and more. Keep reading for projects to introduce this fall or anytime of the year.  

  1. We created a collaborative weaving at the beginning of the school year, inspired by our theme “Better Together.” – Dawn N. 
  1. We start the year off asking the questions “What is art?” and “Why do we create art?” We then create and design our own styled art portfolios. Our art portfolios are simple manila file folders. We fill the front and back with design and then have the remainder of the year during free time to add color! At the end of the year, we look at our art collection and pick our best work for an informal group and individual written critique. The very last day, we draw outside with clipboards and art supply totes to inspire kids to create art all summer long! (We also raffle off new art supplies to take home.) – Jeni M. 
  1. My favorite project to start the new year is to create their own sketchbooks with an introductory first page drawing of their own choice (as long as it’s school appropriate!) – Melanie W.
  1. I teach K–6, and I like to start the year with a line project for K–1, art history timeline for grades 2 and 5, travel around the world for grade 3, and artist trading cards for grade 6. – Crystal A. 
  1. I teach K–5, and I like to start off the school year with lessons based on Peter Reynolds’ book “The Dot.” This encourages students to always try their best, be creative, and not be afraid of trying new things. – Tiffany S. 
  1. Clay cakes were a huge hit and so were llamas. But I always start off the year with a big all-school art activity connected to a children’s book. – Dustin A. 
  1. I teach over 1,000 students from PreK–6th grade. I always start the year with a self-portrait and then do another at the end of the school year. We love to see the progress and compare them. Kids are always shocked at the difference! – Michelle L. 
  1. My favorite projects to start the year are multimedia ones. They get the kids’ hands on all sorts of supplies! – Jane I. 
  1. I think I’m going to have my 5th graders make 1,000 origami cranes, 4th graders make origami fortune tellers, and 3rd graders make origami butterflies. I am not sure about K, 1, and 2, but I want to do some sort of an origami installation! – @happylittleartroom 
  1. I teach Art 1. I like to try something small and different every year. Last year was artist trading cards. The biggest first project is a Name Design Portfolio where they have to come up with a creative design for every letter in their name that represents their likes and personality. – @victoria.pfeiffer 
  1. We always start the year off with the elements and principles of art. This year, the big hit was elements and principles explosion books (for Advanced Art 8) and elements and principles clay tiles (for Ceramics). These lessons give students a nice reminder of the basics of art and a good chance to get back in the creative frame of mind. – Maggie N. 
  1. I usually do a whole-school activity which includes staff as well. – Evelyn A. 
  1. Always start with an elements and principles project. It gets the kids thinking while being creative at the same time. – Pamela W. 
  1. I am starting off the year making a poppy installation for Veterans Day. – Jen D. 
  1. Our school has a different theme for each year, so I like to do a whole-school project that illustrates that theme somehow. I used the “Community circle project” lesson plan (and that was a great Maker Monday video too!) from Nasco a couple of years ago for the students to show what it was like living through Covid lockdown and how excited they were to be back at school. After a collaborative school project, I try to start clay projects, doing one grade level a month. That way I’m not trying to fire everything in a short time. – JojoMa W. 
  1. My favorite lesson plans to start with are making sketchbook covers and Zentangle designs that we then turn into rolled paper sculptures! – Jennie B. 
  1. I love to start with graffiti name designs, mixed-media collage books, and observational drawings! – Angela H. 
  1. I start my 4th graders out with bowls! I talk about slab rolling and molding. I want to start my 3rd with clay lanterns next year too. – Kelly B. 
  1. I like to start off with something simple like ceramic donuts. It builds confidence with the clay and they love the results! – Suzanne H. 
  1. One of the first projects we create are clay leaves. We gather leaves and press them on the clay and cut around the leaves. Then we glaze them with fall leaf colors! – Tina F. 
  1. We usually start out with a few tried-and-true drawing projects (binder covers, Zentangles, shading exercises). When we get to clay, we love making tic-tac-toe boards (with shrink art pieces), tiki mugs, clay theme boxes, clay Funko Pop! designs, clay shoes, and more at our middle school! – Ellyn S. 
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Want more ideas for creating with clay? Check out “32 ceramic projects art teachers and students love.

21 back-to-school art projects to kick off the year

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