Best practices are general guidelines and suggestions for effective teaching. No matter what your level of experience, you can benefit from incorporating the following best practices into your art classroom.

Be Prepared Use unit and daily lesson plans to help make the most of your time with your students. (See pages 112–115.) Think through important aspects such as classroom and materials set-up, visual references for each lesson, and teaching standards.

Establish Rules Create a list of rules and expectations that define appropriate behavior for your students. Address how art materials should be handled, general safety concerns, and the respect you require students to have for each other’s work.

Know Your Students Remember that students arrive each year with a mixed set of experiences. Art classes can be intimidating for some students. Make a special effort to know each student’s name, personality, and learning style. Interact with students through the course of each day, both inside and outside the classroom. Make sure that your art projects allow for variation and flexibility so that all students succeed.

Create an Inspiring Classroom To engage and motivate students, display stimulating artwork in your classroom. Set up an exhibit space with student work or other images related to the current lesson.

Plan Bell-Ringer Activities Provide transition time for students to settle into art class and get focused. Start a discussion, quick drawing activity, game, or other exercise, depending on grade level and class needs.

Pace and Scaffold Instruction Access students’ prior knowledge and help them build developmentally appropriate skills. Use the scope and sequence to plan your standards-based instruction throughout the year.

Leave Time for Reflection Allow time at the end of sessions to review or discuss important concepts introduced in class. Opportunities to reflect help students absorb their art-making processes and experiences. Student reflection also helps the teacher gauge comprehension.

Require a Sketchbook Have students keep a sketchbook for drawing, doodling, writing down ideas, and pasting images. Even young students can benefit from a sketchbook if they have clear guidelines about how to use it.

Incorporate Themes Identify themes that engage students and connect with their experiences. Working with strong themes motivates students, helps them form opinions, and activates critical thinking.

Introduce Various Art Forms Continually expose students to different art forms by introducing them to techniques in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and other media. Help them understand that each art form has its own properties, and encourage them to explore these properties in their own work.

Make Connections and Honor Diversity Develop class opportunities or assign art projects that acknowledge and embrace students’ cultural backgrounds. Introducing them to various artists and types of artwork, whether folkloric or contemporary, will help them examine different points of view and traditions.

Promote Student Collaboration Though art activities often require students to work alone, provide opportunities for collaboration. Working with others on a project helps students develop important communication and social skills. When assigning collaborative projects, consider each student’s abilities and skills.

Be Your Own Critic If an art lesson or project isn’t working out the way you intended, think about what might be improved. Remaining flexible will allow for more creativity in your approach to teaching.

Stay in the Loop Technology provides students with constant access to new information and imagery. Understand the available tools and encourage your students to use them. Seek opportunities to develop professionally and support your practice.

Balance Process and ProductStudent discovery is an integral part of learning in visual arts. Help your students take risks and follow their instincts, emphasizing the process of art-making as much as the final product.

Exhibit Artwork Take time to display artwork, both in class and in public areas of the school, and involve students in planning these exhibitions. Students will take pride in their achievement and understand the importance of their artistic experience.

Encourage Family Involvement By communicating with parents or guardians regularly about their children’s work, you create a partnership that reinforces the importance of learning and strengthens your school arts community.

Provide Experiences Outside the Classroom Chicago is rich in its art offerings. Plan field trips to museums, galleries, archives, and artists’ studios to expose students to a wide array of artists and art forms. Teach students basic museum etiquette.

Teach Students to Look at Art Help students appreciate and evaluate art. Give them the vocabulary to describe what they see and provide a set of questions that they can ask themselves every time they view art.