Studio Days

It is quite an honor to host the featured edBlog of the week this week!  Thank you to all who voted for the Inspired Classroom. Enjoy your time on the website and blog!  EMP

Last year I tried a new idea with my fourth graders – Studio Day and it was a hit!  Please, let me share!

Concept – Students are given a long amount of time to start and complete a project.  This time (1-3 hours) is more time than normally given so that students are forced to work their way through the creative process.  (Instead of starting something only to put it into their “To Do” folder to work on when they can.)  It also allows students to work on a project that can be quite involved and include some real artistic creation in the visual arts, music, theater, and/or poetry making, etc.

Time – Carve out an amount of time that is more then what you would expect.  This will allow for ample clean up time and for “Pushing Time.”   Pushing time, for me begins when the first student says they are done and I follow up with, “No you’re not.  What else can you do with this?”

Place – Using an area outside of the normal classroom (art room, outside, big open space) can be a great idea.  It gives a special feel to the time you have and it takes away a lot of distractions.  (Kind of like when you bring your work to the kitchen table, away from your office desk.)

Lessons Learned –

  • “Trust the Process” Sometimes things don’t go as you planned, but if you keep working (persevering) an end result will come.
  • “You are Never Truly Done” When you think you are done (after 20 minutes), you are forced to sit with your product and realize there is always more you can do to make your work better.
  • “Mistakes Will Happen, Work with Them”  Something may go wrong, but it doesn’t mean you need to stop or throw your work away.  Instead, work with it.  The stray mark can be turned into a flower.
  • “The Process Takes Time and Focus”  When you work on something, you need to give it your attention.  Multitasking often does not work.  You owe it to yourself and your work to take time and focus.

Post Reflection – Always allow some time for group reflection to happen soon after Studio Time is over.  Students should share stories about their time and their work.  It is through this self reflection that students can start to learn about their own learning styles and strengths.  And when we begin to understand how we learn best, we are empowered by knowledge!

Art Show – Allow for time where students can display their work for their classmates to see.  This can be elaborate (think art on walls complete with artist chats) or very simple (display work on desks, students walk around and look.)

My class had their first Studio Day last week.  During this time, we decorated the covers of our learning reflection journals ($.50 composition books from Staples) to make them personal and special.  The kids loved the idea and enjoyed their time working on their own for an extended period of time.  I told them a couple of days prior what we would be doing so that they could gather materials to use and think about what they wanted to do.  I think this helped them to really take advantage of their time (90 min) in the art room.

I know this may seem like an easier thing for an elementary teacher to schedule into the day, but this is not off limits to middle and high school teachers as well!  Collaborate with another teacher and combine your class times so that you can have an extended period to work on a product.  Switch, trade and be creative with your time and students or even offer the opportunity to have Studio Time before or after school.  Students, once they understand this time is for them, may jump at the chance to participate.

My hope is to have a Studio Day once a month, allowing students to create freely and dig deeply as they learn more about themselves as learners through the creative process.


Look for more about Studio Days in Elizabeth’s new book – Studio Days in the Classroom.

Studio Days in the Classroom (book)
Studio Days provide students of all ages the chance to persevere in a safe, creative environment. Elizabeth has provided the theory behind her concept of Studio Days as well as a complete introduction on how to get them started with your students. Each Studio Day lesson plan has been used in the classroom and includes both the National Arts Standards and Common Core Standards, ways to share creative work, reflection questions for students, extension ideas, and links to additional resources. Regardless of whether you teach first grade or twelfth grade, Studio Days provide unique, authentic learning experiences for your students. 8 1/2 X 11, perfect bound, 70pgs, ISBN# 978-0-9859051-0-1
Price: $17.00

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. Paige V. Baggett says:

    Nice post. Thanks for the inspiration Elizabeth! See my response:

  2. First of all, Paige, thank you for the wonderful compliments and restatements from my original post. I am honored that you would write this in response!

    I have come to realize as I get older that our society just doesn’t allow ourselves time to work through our own creative processes. So, your idea to bring this into play with your college students is wonderful!

    I do this with my colleagues. Just today we had our first monthly PLaiC meeting (PLC centered around arts integration) and one teacher called it her “retreat”. She has looked forward to starting these times again.

    It’s exciting to see that you already have interest. I wish I was closer… would love to collaborate somehow. Please let me know how things go!

  3. Julie says:

    Wow! The very first thing I noticed was a big shift in my thinking when I read:
    “…students are forced to work their way through the creative process. (Instead of starting something only to put it into their “To Do” folder to work on when they can.)”

    I had originally thought of your studio days as giving students the luxury of time…time to create, re-think, add, revise, take away or start over…all following some form of self-reflection as well as possibly sharing with a peer or teacher. This idea of “forcing” at first struck me as harsh, but then after some time to process, it had a different effect. How often are kids given the opportunity (and expectation) to look at their artistic endeavors and really think about what they wanted to convey, what they were feeling and how they made the choices they made?

    Also the idea of varying the location for the studio project is something I had not thought about, and makes so much sense. It can give kids a new perspective and a different sense of energy. In some case it might not take away the distractions, but, in fact add more, especially if it’s a space they have not been in before…but I’ll need to give some thought to that when I am ready to give it a try with my students.
    Thanks again for your inspirational teaching stories!

  4. Becky says:

    I love this idea of putting everything else on hold for a day and taking the time to complete an arts related project and bring it to fruition. I think I will do this with my kindergarteners (the people who really love to do things and “be done”). I say this not to take away from the process at all, but to demonstrate how important it is to take the time to really delve into something and then turn that artistic work into a product. So often we do not allow children to finish something. We are always putting things on hold and saying we will come back to them later. This is hard for a lot of kids. Once they start those creative vibes going, they don’t want to finish later. They want to keep going. So, I can see a day like a studio day being a really big hit with the little ones, but also a great opportunity for them to experience that creative process.

  5. Tori says:

    I look forward to being able to incorporate Studio Days into my monthly schedule. I too thought of those students who get upset and balk, “But I’m not done!” and off goes the work into the “red folder”. Having experienced my own Studio Day with you yesterday, not only do I feel connected with the process of one but I feel comfortable. Using a different spot (in my situation) is ideal. I can see how it might not work with the little, little ones but in our school we have access to the wonderfully large and open (yet private) art room. Good luck trying it out!

  6. It’s very rewarding to hear the positive feedback on Studio Days. It is sometimes hard to find the time and space for it and let’s face it – it’s not always looked upon as a good use of time. BUT it is! The kids learn so much and so do I. If any of you decide to try a Studio Day, I would love to hear how it goes. 🙂

  7. Julie says:

    I agree that the fun of the arts can sometimes be squelched when kids don’t have enough time to do all that they wanted with their particular pieces. Let’s try to keep in touch and encourage each other in following through with the intention of instituting some studio days in the upcoming school year. Becky – I would love to collaborate with you on this, since our kids are closer in age. It would be helpful to think through the process and do a little planning together…what do you think?

  8. Becky says:

    Julie – Great idea about collaborating. I really think a studio day could work with the little ones. I really want to have the flexibility to have one of these once a month too. We do many other things like “Fun Friday” and the like to reward our students. Why not a studio day? I think the rational for it is even stronger given that there are so many goals and such great learning in both the arts and content areas tied in these days.

  9. Tori says:

    Elizabeth, We will have to make sure that we “book” the Art room! Or the Music room! And not doublebook! The funny thing is that I love having those open spaces to work in when the specialists are not there BUT the reason they are not there is that their positions have been shrunk. It’s kind of bittersweet!

  10. Jennifer Rice says:

    I use open art days in my art room every year where students are giving a variety of centers filled with different materials and they use the entire class to create whatever they want. Most students take full advantage of this opportunity and work until the very last minute of class. There are only a few that get “writer’s block” per say and run out of creative steam after a short amount of time. Those are the times you have to push them to think, and explore and dig deep. With a little push they are well on their way to adding, or subtracting what they have already created, or are creating something new. They love this time and I would definitely recommend doing this in any classroom!

  11. Jen says:

    I just want to thank you for showing us the Vivaldi-inspired artwork that your fourth-graders created during studio day. What a great topic. And, the fact that you incorporated listening, art, music, and writing is so meaningful. Terrific.

  12. Mary Ann says:

    What a great experience for your students. Maybe this is what needs to be considered when our principal talks about creative scheduling. I would love to have my students for a longer length of time to get through a lesson or activity where time is not a huge factor.

  13. Mary-Ellen Uhlarik says:

    I love the Lessons Learned…
    It was great to hear about how your studio day listening to the Vivaldi music and how you turned it into a visual arts lesson. Yesterdays experience was such a pleasure and I am planning to do more listening to music and visualizing with my PreK Class.

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