I have begun each class with a picture book that relates to our art project for the day. I find that this not only breaks up their time, but gives us nearly 10 minutes of total focus and engagement before diving in. I struggled at first with getting them to stop yelling out and talking over each other, but I find that if I just turn the page and keep reading, they get silent because they can't wait to hear more. Children LOVE stories! And research shows us that a child that is read to has an exponentially larger vocabulary, and can therefore read more fluently, faster than kids who are not read to as a child.
So we started with Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre. This is an adorable book I saw on Pinterest and ordered right away! The illustrations were to die for! Matty ignores his teacher's request to use "Raindrops, not puddles!" and gets himself in a sticky situation. Throughout the reading I would ask the kids questions like "Why do you think the teacher said raindrops not puddles?" or "What do you think is going to happen next?"
We started with a really simple project that let us practice with glue and procedures in the art room. I first let them pick a color of construction paper, then I had pre-cut tiny squares of various colors. I had them use a crayon to draw the first letter of their first name. Seems easy enough... some kids chose some letters that were in the middle. Oh well! After that we practiced opening and closing glue bottles. (If the bottle is closed, a raindrop is showing.) Then, we put raindrops on those pre-cut pieces and glued along our first initials. This whole process only took about 20 minutes, but the book took nearly 15, transitions are always slow, and clean-up took nearly 10 minutes as well. (We have 50 minute classes). Teaching how to logically use a drying rack can be a challenge, too! With any dead time, I let the kids draw pictures around their letter. Some kids got really creative with it, while others just scribbled. The looked cute either way!
My biggest success in the way of management was the promise of a sticker at the end of class for those who worked hard and followed directions. I just gave them some little smiley faces and would use phrases like "Oh my goodness, it would make me really sad to only give some friends a sticker today." That usually does the trick! We also practiced repeating after me with three claps. That gave me their attention almost immediately.