Motivation, Warm-up, and Introduction Activities

In one of my art ed classes in college, we had to make a teacher’s resource notebook. One of the sections we had to make was about motivation, warm-up, and intro activities. Here are some of the ideas:


  • Art Poses – In the beginning or end of class, have everyone stand up and stretch. Show students different artworks on the projector, and have students try to mimic the poses of the artworks. See possible examples below:
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File:Degas, Deux danseuses .jpg
  • Drawing from Directions – One student receives a drawing/image of an artwork and describes the drawing to another student who can’t see the drawing. The student not looking at the drawing tries to replicate the drawing based on the other student’s directions.
  • Artist Knowledge Game – Separate the class into groups of 4 or 5 or if tables are set up, each table is a team. Have students work together to list as many artists possible in 3 minutes. As a variation, have students make a list of as many art materials they can think of, art movements, art techniques, female artists, etc.
  • Art Memes – If memes are still relevant, show high school students several art related memes and ask students to name the artist or art movement the meme references. Try to find memes that relate to the topic students are learning about. Or, have students research and find a famous work of art and make a meme out of it (make sure it’s school appropriate!). If you search art memes in Google, you will find plenty of examples.
  • Art Captions – Print out several works of art, and have students work together in small groups or individually to come up with a creative caption. Or print out one large image of an artwork and give each student a speech bubble sticky note which they can write dialogue on and stick onto the artwork.
  • Scribble Game or Exquisite Corpse: For the scribble game, students work with a peer. Each student draws a scribble (using your non-dominant hand produces a nice scribble) and then trades papers. The other student tries to make a picture out of the scribble. For exquisite corpse, students fold a piece of paper into thirds. The first student draws a head in the top section, then folds it down, making sure some of the drawing goes into the second section. The next student draws the middle section, then folds it down and passes it along again. The last student draws the legs/ feet.
  • Roll a Die: Students each get a die and there will be a handout or projection of the meaning of each die number. Each die number will represent a different art technique, such as 1 – lines, 2- dots, 3 – squiggles, 4 – draw with your non-dominant hand, 5 – draw with a ruler, and 6 – crosshatching. Students will draw an object or draw abstract shapes using the rules. Whatever die number they roll corresponds to the technique they use in their drawing.

INTRODUCTION – These are activities/ discussions at the beginning of class to introduce a topic or idea.

  1. What is art? This could be a good activity for the first day of a high school art class. Students all get a scrap of paper and write down what they think art is. Then, the students hang up all the papers onto the chalkboard, and the class discusses what art is and what the best definition for art is. Consider discussing controversial artworks (like Duchamp’s Fountain) and also everyday objects such as tables, chairs, cereal boxes, etc. Point out specific objects in the classroom, or have students bring in/ gather objects and discuss whether or not it is art. All of these objects had a designer/ artist behind them, so should they be considered art? Why or why not?
  1. Automatic Drawing: In discussion of the relationship between sound and visual, students will listen to music and draw based on what they hear. Each student will get a piece of paper and pen or pencil. One or two songs will be played (perhaps one classical and one modern song), and students will either close their eyes or not look at the paper as the music plays, keeping their hands moving the entire time. To discuss the relationship between art and music, consider showing this video:
  2. Make a Pizza: At each table or the front of the classroom, lay out a variety of materials (including paper, cotton balls, paint, glue, sequins, fabric scraps, etc.). Each student constructs a piece of “pizza” using any materials they want. Then, working at their tables, they put all the pieces of pizza together to make a whole pizza. Then, they grab a different slice of pizza and add on to that pizza. They repeat these steps one more time until each table has a very crazy-looking pizza. For high school students, encourage them to take a picture of the pizza at each stage, or perhaps the teacher can take the pictures. The students can loosen up with this activity and see how sometimes, it’s good to keep adding on to their art, even if it gets kind of crazy.


  1. Sticky Notes: Everyone grabs a sticky note when they come into the classroom and draws something on it, making sure some of the lines go off the page. Then, students use more sticky notes to combine all of their sticky note drawings in a grid at their tables. To expand it further, then have the whole class come together to connect all the sticky notes.
  2. Observational Drawing: At the start of class, everyone grabs an object from the bin of objects at the front of the classroom. Students can grab up to 4 objects to create an interesting composition. Then, students arrange the objects in front of their work area and draw the objects from observation (materials may be pre-selected, like charcoal or pencil, or students may have several choices of material).
  3. Art on the Projector: Project an artwork on the screen (with no information about title, artist, or anything else) and have students write down as many observations on the artwork as they can. Ask students to consider the following:
    1. What do you see?
    2. Elements of art? Principles?
    3. What do you think the artist is saying?
    4. When do you think this work is from?
    5. Who do you think the artist is?
    6. What materials do you think were used?
    7. What first stands out to you in this piece?
    8. What would you title this piece?
    9. Have you seen this artwork before?
    10. Where do you think it is from?
    11. What questions do you have about this work?
  4. Prompts/Questions: There will be a question written on the board or a prompt which students will start working on when they come into the classroom. They will respond in their sketchbooks/ notebooks. Questions should relate to the material that was covered last class or to an upcoming project/idea.
    • Prompts for Younger Students (Elementary/Middle school)
      • Objects:
        • Draw what you ate for dinner last night
        • Draw your favorite food
        • Draw a birthday cake for a family member, a pet, or yourself
        • Set up a still life at each table and have students draw from it
        • Draw your backpack and everything inside it
      • Places:
        • Draw/paint your bedroom from memory
        • Draw your house
        • Draw your favorite place to play
        • Draw the woods, trees
        • Draw the playground, the school
        • Draw the inside of your locker/desk
      • Animals/Creatures:
        • Draw an alien, monster, creature, animal, etc.
        • Draw your favorite animal
      • People:
        • Draw yourself (in your favorite place, eating your favorite food, playing outside, in space, riding on the bus, etc.)
        • Draw your family
        • Draw your friends
        • Draw the people sitting at your table
      • Limitations
        • Draw a picture using only:
          • the primary colors
          • secondary colors
          • black and white
          • only one color
          • your favorite colors
      • Imagination
        • Draw what you think computers look like on the inside
        • Draw the inside of your mind
        • Draw what you think the future looks like (aliens, robots, space?)
    • Prompts for Older Students (High School)
      • Make a value scale, color wheel, practice drawing different textures, art techniques
      • From Observation
        • Draw your shoes
        • Draw your backpack
        • Draw the classroom
        • Find an interesting object in your backpack – draw it
      • People
        • Self-portrait
        • Draw the people at your table
        • Blind contour drawings of people, contour line drawings, shaded drawings

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