May 10, 2013

Posted by | 12 Comments

A Creative Way for Students to Leave Their Mark!

As an elementary art teacher, I find Spring to be bittersweet.  I am ready to rush out the door and enjoy summer vacation, but I also find it very hard to say goodbye to my students, especially my 5th-graders.  After working with them and watching them grow for 6 years, I can honestly say that I will miss them (well, most of them anyway!).


This is why I designed a new tradition called “Leave Your Mark!”  In a nutshell, students are given the opportunity to submit a design and paint a large canvas that will be displayed at our building for the next year.  I purchased five 48 x 24 canvases with some fundraising money that hang in our halls outside the Art, Music, PE, Library and Counselor’s room.  Students submit a design, individually, in pairs, or in groups and then work on their own time to complete the canvas.  The finished products are revealed at 5th grade graduation and hung in the halls for the following school year.

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I have had great success with this program.  Students are motivated and driven to work before and after school or at recess through the month of May in order to complete their piece.  They learn to work together and are held to a high level of responsibility.

Do you have any legacy programs for your students at the end of the year?

How to your students ‘leave their mark’ through art?

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  • Hannah

    At my K-4 school, my 4th graders paint a ceiling tile before they leave. Their table works as a group to paint one tile. At the Middle School, I have my 6th graders paint a brick on the wall before they leave me and move on to the 7th grade.

    • Jessica Balsley

      Both seem like really neat ideas. I bet the students really look forward to it.

  • Annie b

    My 5th graders create a clay tile commemorating what they love and remember most from their years at the school. All 130-140 tiles are fired in my kiln and then painted and brushed with a clear gloss. I then cement and grout each tile into a 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 foot frame which then gets hung on the wall forever. I’ve been at the school for 20 years and I started this tradition 20 years ago. My grown students often come back years later ( some with kids of their own) to visit and enjoy looking for their tile. Honestly, it is a beautiful, permanent, and colorful display, along with being a tradition that means a lot to everyone. students coming to the school look forward to the day they get to create their tile. I figure, when I run out of wall space, it will be time to retire! :- D

    • IeSt

      :) It sounds really great! Is it possible to see somewhere on the internet how your wall looks like?

      • Annie b

        Send me your email address and I can send you photos

      • Annie b

        Check your email and please just let me know you received the pics. I’m a bit technology-challenged! Thanks

  • dl

    Great idea. I really need something for my5th graders to create. The issue is I only am in this building one half of the day…and travel to the middle school the other half. Working during their recess or after school is out of the question….as by the time I can leave the middle school, these students have already been dismissed for the day. I do not feel right asking other staff members to supervise them. Thus, I need an idea that the kids could do independently, during their recess….so they can leave something behind at the end of the year. Any suggestions??

    • Heather Crockett

      Hmmm… maybe there is a project they could complete in class and then leave behind as a legacy item at the end of the year. The ceramic tiles might be a good fit. Or you could try smaller canvases that students take home to complete.

  • Heather Crockett

    Lots of great ideas! Thanks for sharing

  • Annie b

    What about having every fifth grader create a painting and/or a favorite saying on a tongue depressor. These can then be brushed with gloss to protect them. Each tongue depressor could be mounted to long 6″ wide poster boards and then stapled up as a display, end to end. Every year the display could be rehung with the new class’ paintings added. Eventually, you’d have a ton :-D. Tongue depressors are cheap and come in boxes of 500. Students could take them home to work on them, or do them in class. I actually do this project with the entire school, including teachers. At the end of the year, after all artwork has been passed back, the halls look so empty, so this giant display adds color and interest…it’s like a giant graffiti wall! The small size of the tongue depressor is not intimidating, and the only rule is no blood, guts, or violence!

  • Jackie Hummel

    Jackie H
    I teach 1st through 12th grades. My high school seniors paint a ceiling tile. It must be a copy of a famous painting that I teach to my elementary students so they always get my approval before starting. After drawing the image on the back side of the ceiling tile they use acrylic paint to complete the image. When completed they write the name of the painting they copied and the artist very large so everyone can see it and then they sign thier name and the year they graduated. My students can’t wait to be seniors in art so they can paint a tile. At this time we are filling the ceiling in the artroom and plan on painting ceiling tiles in the hallways when the artroom is full.