SchoolArts Room

Fun & Games

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Apr 5, 2018

Georgia O’Keeffe, Grandma Moses, the Statue of Liberty. These are just a few of the characters I’ve impersonated as an art teacher. As with many things I have done at school, no one else was eager to be the Statue of Liberty so I volunteered. I have found, as an art teacher, it is helpful in many situations to be willing to be silly, funny, or humorous. With these thoughts in mind, I posted this question on Facebook: “Art teachers, what are some of the ways you use humor in your classroom?”

Nancy kidding around with Charlie Brown at the cartoonist’s Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Cruz, California.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some compassion, some humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou

The response was amazing! The question definitely struck a chord. Here are some of the responses:

Crystal Clark Penserini
First of all, I love this question! It's something (not being an extrovert) that I struggle with daily. I dressed up as Frida Kahlo, and painted my face like a Mondrian painting (not on Halloween). I wear lots of fun and crazy prints, art tees and have fun tchotchkes in my my Japanese eraser collection. I make or hang fun signs, hall passes, etc. I teach high school. I went to an EdTech Summit to a session on Improv. The keynote was on infusing creative chaos into the classroom. I could see it totally setting a tone for the classroom, enabling kids (and teachers to be silly) and feel a little more comfortable together.  

Casey Gillespie
I use memes to teach my rules and procedures. They LOVE it and it helps them remember it. Once in a while I bring in magic tricks from my son (a magician) and do them really badly.

Rebecca Anne Recco
I sometimes use Chatterpix to make artworks "talk" in my slide presentations, just to wake kids up and make them laugh.

Jessica Miller
I prefer singing answers to questions in opera.

Danna Fuller
I’ll throw in a ridiculous statement when introducing new assignments or going over rules. It is so much fun to see the looks on the faces of those who are paying attention. I also love to make up absurd incorrect answers on tests. Love seeing them look up at me like “are you serious?” Or hear them laugh to themselves when they read them. I also sing, though I can’t, I do anyway, and though I realized a few years ago that I’m not as great a dancer as I once thought, I have been known to bust a move or two.

Gail Nadeau Saborio
I know this sounds awful but they always laugh..”For every unfinished project, a puppy dies!” I teach high school and they finish their projects!!!

Katie Malone-Smith
When a student asks me, "What will happen if I eat this paint/glue/clay/etc.? My answer is always the same, "diarrhea.” I also talk about being "that kid." Don't be "that kid" who doesn't wash their brushes. Don't be "that kid" who cuts a circle out of the MIDDLE of a piece of construction paper. Don't be "that kid" that eats the glue.

Carrie Jeruzal
While drawing I’ll ask if they see that they are working like a smudge-osaurus or an eraser-aholic.

Nancy Brady
I taught my K students how to do 'Silent Mime Clean Up Time." I showed them how to speak without using words and it was hilarious. Clean up would be more orderly and the students had a lot of fun practicing communication without words.

Kait Str-lumbo
I often include examples of possible mistakes in my demonstrations. I really play it up like things are going wrong which the kids find hilarious. When I teach portrait drawing I show how a lot of kids draw giant heads with tiny bodies and I have a bit where I walk around all slumped because my body can't support my huge head. Humor helps with student engagement a lot, in my opinion

Britt Brisson
I use it to deal with behavior when students try to get a reaction using cursing/swear words. My first week teaching I got called a b*tch by a 3rd grader and instead of making a big deal about it I said "This is art class, you need to use some creativity if you're going to insult me!"....that kid is now a 5th grader who loves me and my class to death and has never forgotten that day that I told her b*tch wasn't creative enough to fly.

Andrew Katz
I play old school Hip-Hop as our clean up song (Apache, by the Sugar Hill Gang). They have to be seated, quiet, and ready, by the time they hit the “Ah-oongas,” about a minute and fifteen seconds into the song. They love it...and dance while they’re cleaning. By the way, this question is an example of the best use of the Internet.

Thanks to all who responded. I’ll post more responses on the SchoolArtsRoom blog. Thanks also to my co-editor on this issue, Pam Stephens, a SchoolArts Contributing Editor and Professor, Art Education, Northern Arizona University.