Throughout my years of teaching, I have always tried to acknowledge the students who might otherwise fly under the radar. When we have large classes with many students, the ones causing the most noise often get the most one-on-one attention. It’s the students who work quietly, thoughtfully, an intently that many times go unnoticed. I argue that these students are the real leaders of a classroom. When you raise up these students as the one who set the tone for the class, others may follow.
I believe in positive reinforcement. This can take on many forms, from notes home to publicly acknowledging them for their effort, hard work, and grit. I wanted to come up with something simple that could be an everyday reward. So, I had to think about it awhile and I came up with “Art Stars”! These are small, paper origami stars that are easy to make once you get the hang of it. And they’ve had a huge impact on my classroom management. I also wanted something that wouldn’t cost money, so I began using scrap paper from past art projects or painted watercolor on white paper using the materials already in the art room.
A veteran teacher once told me, “You can make anything something of value when you add a smile.”
How Do I Make Art Stars?
Link with Instructions HERE
Tips: Use the Right Paper and cut in ½” strips
- Long paper (either 12”x17” or 9”x12”) works best. I have found that regular copy paper is not long enough.
- Thick paper is too painful to squish into place. Thin paper is too flimsy.
How Do I Use Art Stars?
When I taught elementary art, I would say at the beginning of class that I was watching for 2 students to show that they are working to the best of their abilities. I kept the students’ names a secret until the end of class. This way no one knew whether they were being observed or not, so everyone was on their best behavior. Before the students left class, I would make a big deal about rewarding the secret students with their Art Stars. This was easy to manage with a copy of the class list, making sure that every student had a turn at some point. I mixed it up by repeating recipients every now and then, so students did not revert back to disappointing behaviors once they had received an Art Star.
Random Art Stars:
Now that I teach middle school art, I was apprehensive as to whether or not students would respond to this strategy. To my surprise, they did, and when students visit me after going on to high school, it is one of the first things they ask for. For my middle school students, I have transitioned into using the Art Stars as a random surprise that I simply and quietly place in front of them and explain why. It is something that is unexpected and always brings a smile. I look for students who are working quietly, showing kindness to another student, helping clean materials without being asked, showing perseverance when struggling, participating well in class, etc. It could be for anything. And just as that veteran teacher once told me, they do become something of value. Students who are sitting near the art star, start thinking about their own behavior. They begin to help each other without being provoked. They start showing random acts of kindness and sticking with a difficult task.
Grand Prize Art Stars:
For big celebrations, I will have a collection of Art Stars. I will fill a jar with Art Stars and the student closest to the correct number will win the entire thing.
People may see this as bribery, but for me, it tells students in very clear terms how to get my attention and what I expect in my classroom. Anyone can mess up every now and then and it will slide, but what I will not tolerate in my classroom is disrespect of people, materials, or our class environment. I want students to develop a habit of taking care of themselves and each other.
If you are at a breaking point and want to add something new to your classroom management strategies, try Art Stars. They are sure to bring a smile.
What do you use to motivate your students? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.