5 Project Techniques to Use in Your Adapted Art Class

One of the most satisfying feelings as a teacher is the sense of student accomplishment. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one of the worst feelings is defeat. Unfortunately, most art teachers experience this feeling of defeat at some point during their career. When I first started teaching, I certainly came across some “mini-battles” I was able to problem-solve and overcome, but others weren’t so easy. One of the areas I felt most defeated in was with my special education students.

student hands working

I was often able to make adaptations for students that were mainstreamed into my classroom in an inclusion setting. However, I struggled with my classes comprised entirely of students with more severe challenges. Although it took some time to learn what my students needed, once I figured out how to differentiate and meet their individual needs, everything went much more smoothly.

Today I am going to share 5 project techniques you can use in your adaptive art classes to turn defeat into victory.

1. Painted Paper

painted paper
Paint can be a messy material, but when it comes to adaptive art classes, paint is your best friend. There are countless ways to use paint with your adaptive art students, but one of the best is by creating painted paper. One of the more challenging obstacles for students in an adaptive art class is the vast range of fine motor skills. Some students may not be able to hold and control certain sizes of paintbrushes. For those students, explore different tools and textures, like household cleaning brushes and dusters, to apply paint. Having a stock of painted paper will allow you to create beautiful art pieces throughout the year.

2. Torn Paper Collage

collage
Rarely do we tell our students to tear, rip, and destroy a piece of paper. Many of your students will embrace the opportunity to rip something up as they embark on a torn paper collage. To create these collages, you can use construction paper, but painted paper will enhance the final look. This is a fantastic way for students to create imagery without having to use scissors. The torn pieces of paper act as small pieces of mosaics coming together to create an artwork. Having a pre-drawn image on a piece of paper will give students a visual reference when placing the torn pieces to form an image.

3. Stamping & Printing

stamped tulips

Many students in an adaptive art class are fascinated with cause-and-effect. Using printing and stamping techniques will enamor your students. They won’t want to stop creating! Using everyday items like forks, toilet paper rolls, and cardboard are great tools for students to stamp and print with. Printing with non-traditional items, like leaves and sea shells, will bring the details of these objects to life.

4. Stencils

stencils
Using stencils with students is a wonderful way to increase control of fine motor skills. Often, adapted art students will need some extra assistance when it comes to cutting. As you get to know your students, you’ll come to find which students can handle cutting and which students need pre-cut materials. Pre-cut stencils made simply of cardstock or oak tag paper can be very helpful.  Contact paper is another way to use stencils to create an image that will stick directly to the paper. Using a variety of materials, like paint or chalk, students can cover the entire paper. When completed, the contact paper can be peeled off to reveal a beautiful image!

heart made by negative space of stencil

5. Simple Clay Techniques

student name clay project
3D building techniques are a fan favorite in an adapted art class. Using clay is an easy way for students to mold and create. Simple clay techniques, like pounding or rolling slabs, are great to use with students. Try using stamps and clay tools to add a little texture. Students often have a great ability to roll thin coils which can be used to create an image or even to spell out their names. Some assistance will likely be needed when attaching clay pieces and smoothing out rough edges.

For students who might not like the way clay feels on their hands, try having them wear gloves or put the clay in a clear plastic bag to be molded. Another idea to try is using alternative modeling materials like Model Magic.

Remember, when working with adapted art students what works for one student might not work for another. Patience will be key in feeling comfortable with your students. Be prepared to expect the unexpected and adapt with your students as you use these five techniques in your classroom.

If you’re looking for even more techniques to bring into your classroom, be sure to check out the course, Reaching All Artists Through Differentiation where participants learn to use the appropriate tools to maximize learning for all students.

What are your favorite techniques when teaching adapted art?

 Please share in the comments below!

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Eliz Townsend

    The project I usually think of where everyone’s always turns out (granted they can press hard enough with the crayons while coloring) is the old “coloring on sandpaper” project. It doesn’t matter what they color on there, as long as they get a good layer of crayon wax on the sandpaper. For those who have less muscle ability, one could even have them sprinkle crayon shavings on the sandpaper. After all students have finished loading their sandpaper with crayon wax, while they are busy with another project, I have kids come up two at a time (so they can watch their classmate); and after I either place their sandpaper face down on a piece of white construction paper–or if shavings were used–place the construction paper on top of their sandpaper), I help the students iron over the sandpaper. (Beforehand, I give students instructions re: how to safely handle the iron, if it is appropriate for them to use it in the first place.) Then we make several swipes over the entire sandpaper area with the iron, and then I (as it is all very hot) lift either the sandpaper or construction paper up to reveal their final work of art.) Sometimes I glue their used piece of sandpaper next to the print for a little symmetrical or asymmetrical affect. (If you do that, beforehand you have to plan extra space next to the print for whatever the affect you’re planning to achieve.) Parents are always wowed when they see this finished project on the wall.

    Tips: You’ll want to put a couple extra pieces of paper over the project before ironing–to protect the iron (especially, if T-fal or Teflon) and to absorb some of the wax residue. Also, be aware of the concern from others in the school, who will come running, thinking something is burning in the school.

    • Abby Schukei

      Thanks so much for sharing this detailed process!

  • Darlene siracusano

    I have taught art to special need students for 29 years! My favorite thing I have made for my students are cupcake crayons. My student would brake the regular crayons so I melted the solid color s in a double boiler and place the liquid wax in a cupcake tin with paper. The students can hold them better and they don’t brake. I uses them for texture rubbings. This supply’s an image or background and the texture also adds sensory input that stimulates students to color longer and more independently. You can buy texture plates in art catalogs but I have also made plate with dried elders glue. I also use stencils and have the students color on top like a rubbing. Images magically appear. I am all about what students can do not what they can’t

    • Abby Schukei

      What a fantastic tip, thanks for sharing!

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