Teachers, Specializing in… Everything!

Teachers, Specializing in… Everything!

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.You’re a master of flexibility, an expert gear-switcher, and you know and teach every student at your school. You’re a Special Area Teacher. And you’re amazing!

Being a Special Area Teacher means that, on any given day, your lesson plans are meeting the needs of students in vastly different physical, social-emotional, and cognitive phases of development. You might be teaching a five year-old first thing in the morning, still red-faced from separating from his mom in the schoolyard, followed by still-sleepy fifth graders, groggy from a late night of texting. Those teaching middle school electives may have a five-year age range in a single class!

Using the Growth Patterns section of each age represented in Yardsticks, we’ve created an example of how a Special Area Teacher, in this case, an art teacher, can create a space, approach, or plan that is especially attuned to the developmental strengths and needs of their students.

Kindergarten (4-6)

Create a space where eager-to-please kindergarteners can balance risk-taking with guaranteed success by making silent predictions about color mixing followed by student-choice painting with brushes and sponges.

1st grade (6-7)

Help hone those fine motor skills while encouraging experimentation by inviting 1st graders to explore different tools and techniques for making texture in clay.

2nd grade (7-8)

A younger 2nd grade class will thrive in partner activities using a single, shared medium whereas an older class will love the hustle and bustle of group creations.

3rd grade (8-9)

Turn 3rd graders’ impatience into a sense of urgency by setting up technique practice stations around the room and rotating every 10 minutes.

4th grade (9-10)

By 4th grade, students will be able to bring rich insights and thoughtful perspectives to group critiques and visual inventories of well-known works across mediums.

5th grade (10-11)

5th graders love a challenge and are developmentally primed for making art with a purpose. Use student input to research and design whole-class or small-group works driven by social justice.

6th grade (11-12)

6th graders need times and space to move, socialize, and feel independent, so consider setting up your classroom and learning objectives to allow for movement and choice.

7th grade (12-13)

If you haven’t integrated technology and social media into your middle school art classes yet, now’s the time to get students talking about what it means to make, view, and interact with art across new media contexts and platforms.

8th grade (13-14)

8th grade artists are poised to be experts in a particular medium or technique. They help shape classroom culture by choosing artists to add to the class library and by moderating peer critiques.

For even more Special Area Teacher-specific ideas on building an engaging, focused, responsive classroom, check out Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas.

Responsive Classroom for Music, Art & P.E.


Tags: Child Development, Special Areas