A Life Saving Suggestion

25 Feb

The very first day that I taught my elementary class was probably the worst 40 minutes of my teaching career. There were five behavioral students, all about third grade or so. When they walked in, I really thought that they would sit still while I went over rules and expectations. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within five minutes they were out of their chairs, running around, going through my drawers, asking (yelling) “When are we gonna do art!?” So I abandoned my “plan” and scrambled to get them back in their seats. I shoved some salt dough in front of each of them, and tried to explain what I wanted them to do. Unfortunately, I had prepared the dough wrong, and it stuck like taffy to their little fingers. One boy started crying and screaming “Get it off! Get it off!” The assistant, who was looking at me like I was an idiot, shook her head and took the boy to the bathroom to clean up. I couldn’t even organize the other four kids at the sink without one of them trying to wipe dough on another boy’s back. When I say it was a disaster, it really was a disaster. The worst part of all was that there was still about thirty minutes left until I got to send them back to their classroom (where their teacher, I assumed, must have had magical powers.) So we played Simon Says. We played Duck Duck Goose. We played Simon Says again. Finally, the bell rang and the kids ran hitting and screaming into the hallway and back to their classroom. Clearly, I had to make some changes.

I was completely overwhelmed, and I knew I needed help. Aside from completely revamping how I ran operations during a lesson, I asked my principal for some ideas on what to do if I had extra time at the end of the period. Her advice was “Bin Activities”, and for the rest of the year, Bin Activities were my savior. I went to the dollar store that very same day, purchased eight colorful bins, and plenty of activities to fill them with. I tried to keep most of them somewhat art related, but almost anything works. Coloring books, Memory, white boards and markers, magnetic blocks, play dough, you get the idea. The very next day, I told the kids that when they finished their project, they would be allowed to select one bin activity to play with until the end of the period. They would have to play nicely at their desk, and if they wanted a different bin, they had to clean up the first one. I switched out the activities in the bins fairly often, so that there was always something new and exciting to keep them occupied. I couldn’t believe it, but it worked! Bin activities saved me, hopefully they can help you too.


4 Responses to “A Life Saving Suggestion”

  1. 3pmNews February 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Great post, will forward to some of my newer colleagues.
    Thank you…


  2. Crystal Cyr April 28, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    I’m studying to be an art teacher, but I’ve currently worked at an after school program for 6 years as an art instructor. This idea, bin activities, is great!! You always have the “scribble” kid who, no matter how many ways you explain taking your time, and going slow, will be done way ahead of all the other kids. I usually have a sketch table for “free drawing” for these kids, but art games! what a great idea! Were going into our busy time, summer vacation, and I’m grateful for any new tips or help to keep it interesting and not the same ole, same ole.


  1. A Creative Behavior System « Teaching Alternative Art Lessons - March 1, 2010

    […] Creative Behavior System If you’re read some of my previous posts, you know that my elementary class has always been the most difficult for me. The students ranged […]

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