Let go of your expectations
Does it bother you if a student colors outside the lines? Or colors items the ‘wrong’ color? The first step is letting go of your feelings about what the activity should look like. It is OK if our students create art projects that don’t look like we think they should! In many cases, observing how a student approaches a task independently can give us really good information or can be a way to connect with the student about their project.
Focus on independence
Did the student use 100 googly eyes, but glued them on independently? Great! Did the student glue something on the project upside down, but did so independently? Fabulous! Did the student use scissors to independently cut out a shape, even if the shape doesn’t quite look like it should? That’s OK! Focusing on what the student can do is a super helpful mindset to have when working on these kinds of activities.
Provide visuals, but be flexible
I recently did an activity with my students where they made their own gingerbread man. I provided visual supports, but allowed the students to be creative within the task. All of my students needed the visual steps and a model to get started, but none of their final products looked exactly like my model at the end. To me, this is a huge success! The visuals gave them some structure but they showed their own unique creativity through the process.
Let them get messy
Messy projects are my absolute favorite. This is a fabulous way to bring more of a focus on the process to the activity. I know it is more of a hassle at clean up time, but if a student is loving the paint or glitter or whatever material they are using, try to let them explore without prompting! This can be a great way to build persistence and student engagement.