Teachers accommodate a wide variety of skills, interests, and work paces in each class of students. This means that there will always be children who finish their work early and need options at different levels of time duration.
|Looking at a book together|
Some students like to cozy up to a pillow and read an art book, and many like to color in their sketchbooks. Each class in grades 1-4 has a class shelf on which I keep a file box inside which I keep a sketchbook for each student. RES artists make sketchbooks in September and use it all year. I do not give "free draw" paper, because I find that if the paper seems disposable, most students treat their work quality accordingly. A sketchbook demonstrates a respect for their work, that it is permanent and to keep, which in turn increases the quality.
|This year students bubble painted their covers|
When students are finished early, they can draw on a new page in their sketchbooks, go back and add to an older work, or make a "carpet choice." Carpet choices include many options, some intended for quiet solo work, and others geared toward partnering with others.
The computer is another popular solo choice, with several different painting and color theory programs, as well as a fun game called Cargo Bridge, which is essentially CAD drawing for kids with little characters to test out the designs.
|At work on a group mural|
Another way that students draw outside of their sketchbooks is to use mini white boards with a rainbow of dry erase markers. They can do this on their own, as a pair drawing together, or as a group playing our art class version of Pictionary.
In the art room we also love our tub of pattern blocks, with which students not only create amazing flat designs and quilt-type blocks, but with which they also build creations such as castles and houses.
I have heard arguments before that free-choices after a lesson are so enticing that students will rush to finish in order to do these. While I can certainly understand that concern, it rarely comes up, because we discuss that very concept when we introduce the choices- they are for extra time, after a project is finished, and 1. There is often no extra time in a class period, and 2. The same choices are there each week, so students won't "miss the opportunity" to do something because they are still working on a class project.
Some art teachers state that it is their responsibility to teach and guide the art-making, the whole time, and that they prefer not to make space in their classrooms for student-guided drawing and artistic play. What I do know is that all of these things, in my opinion, are art making, and grow creative thinking. Building, patterning, designing, coloring, and physically manipulating objects all build visual and fine motor skills! So play-on, my little artists!
(Just as soon as you have finished your project. And pushed in your chair.)