Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Student folders

When the school year begins, it's time to get to know the students, set the boundaries, establish routines, and find that assignment to start the year off right. Since I only see my students every 6 days (counting weekends) and only for 45 minute periods, time is a precious commodity. When the students show up on their first day with me, I get right to work. Boundaries, routines, expectations, and "getting to know you" engagements can all be done in the first few class meetings. I go over boundaries and routines etc as the opportunities arise. Brain reserach tell us that students can handle information in small doses and not in large chunks. So I introduce only those routines that are necessary for that day.

The first assignment is simple" Students are given an 12 X 18 piece of white construction paper. They are told to fold the paper in half and on what would be the front, students place their name (first and last) and the teacher's name on the bottom of the front cover. Then they are to place the words "Fine Arts" somewhere on the folder (I suggest the top but it's only a suggestion.) Then they are instructed to illustrate the folder any way they want. I show some examples, offer some ideas and themes, and give them a time limit (must be completed by the second day of class).

I start day one with my "seven minute rule." I've written on this elsewhere on this blog but I'll briefly repeat it here. I use a timer, projected on the overhead screen, and expect the students to work for a full seven minutes with no talking. When the seven minutes is up, I set the timer to three minutes and allow students to use one of those minutes to stretch and rest their hand (and head) and then to continue to work but quiet talking and sharing is allowed. After the three minutes is up, I repeat the process. First, seven minutes of quiet work, followed by three minutes of a more relaxed time. Also, toward the end of the class time, I allow for quiet talking and encourage the sharing of work.

You thoughts? Here are a few examples of student folders. The images aren't the best but they will give you the idea.


  1. I think art is so important in schools. It's insane that some schools are cutting budgets and cutting art programs. That is where students get their creative juices flowing. The floders are a great idea for organization and I like how you let them design their own. Puts creativity into their lives. Very nice.

  2. I am excited to attempt your 7 minutes process and hope to cut down on the excessive noise in my room with concrete floor and walls and metal ceiling. I believe that students do their best work when they are not distracted by others talking, but wonder if you have brain research to support your method.

  3. As I understand it, the 7 minutes idea came from Eric Jensen's book, "Teaching with the Brain in Mind." I've recently purchased it and am reading it now.

    BTW, I don't use the timer all the time. It depends on the activity. It also depends on the level of "chatter" and the type of chatter. If kids are talking about their art, that's a good thing. If they are talking about something unrelated, and it's keeping them from their work, I redirect.