2D Centers – Part I

5th and 6th graders completed a 6-7 week unit – 2D centers, earlier this school year (this post is long over due).  The emphasis of this unit was on drawing, water-color painting, and collage.  Students were introduced to each center, 1 day at a time, starting class with a demo of the techniques used at each center.  They were then given a tour of the center and its media, how to properly set up a work space, and then how to clean up one’s work space at said center.

Before all of this could happen, I had to be organized and completely rethink my art room.  Read on for the changes made to material storage, resource availability, and student work time.



My resource shelf was always made available for student use.  The books were divided by media, artist, and continent.  This shelf is also where I keep artist statements, the iPad upload station for See Saw (more on that later), and my artistic behaviors poster.

Each center had a binder with planning/prep steps, technique reminders, examples and ideas, and clean-up reminders.  These technique and clean-up guides were also posted at each physical center space on walls, bulletin boards, on cabinet doors.

This poster hangs on my board as a daily reminder to students.

Students were given time to practice techniques shown in class, working in sketchbooks.  Students were introduced to the idea that rough drafts were practice time – trying techniques and combining techniques with ideas.  Students are reminded that false starts happen and are perfectly OK, and that ideas may completely change.  The concept of a WOW artwork was introduced – a Wonderful and Original Work of art.

After students were comfortable with materials, introduced to all centers, and had practiced techniques, they were turned loose to choose a center of their choice to work at.

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Students had to sign up for a center at the beginning of class, in a binder with blank rosters of their class.  If they chose to change centers during class, they had to indicate that in the center binder with a slash.  I allowed them one change per class – to avoid bouncing around the room and not accomplishing any work.  However, this way, students were able to work in mixed media or change their minds.


Keeping the centers stocked, well-organized, and within student reach was the other key element to running centers smoothly.  For example, the watercolor center was located in two cabinets, near the sinks and organized on trays for easy work space set up.

The drawing center materials were also organized in a similar fashion – close in proximity, with picture labels, and spread out and away from the other two centers, so as to avoid major traffic jams.

Setting up centers was a lot of work for myself and my students – but the pay off was enormous.  Check back soon for examples of finished center work.  You can see students in action and student feedback on 2D centers from a previous post, Playful Learning.


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