Try out various art media. I've often found that kids who tend to be
more "active" often find their nitch with things such as printmaking and
clay. I think the kinesthetic nature of these activities are attractive
to such students. While writing this, I am thinking of a student who was
obnoxious (you know, the kind that you're happy is absent) and really
annoyed me. When introducing the linocut project, I was dreading seeing
the linocut tools in his hands. His response to the project surprised
me. Instead, he drew an acceptable image, eagerly transferred it onto
the block, carved the image with diligence and more focus than I had ever
seen from him, and then asked to begin printing. This 5th grader began
printing before many students had even begun carving! The physical
process of carving and then printing the block was both reassuring and
repetitive for this young student. Any feelings of artistic inadequacy
was sidelined with this somewhat mechanical project.
The main thing I've learned is to listen to the students. By carefully
combining the students' interests and strengths with your curriculum and
goals, you will have more success.
A question regarding the unmotivated middleschoolers. Have the students
had any student teachers recently? The students may be reacting to
negative student teaching experiences, may be tired of having someone
else come in, or may even view the situation as an opportunity (as
learned from previous experiences) to frustrate the "new" student
teacher. Stand firm and don't let the kids get to you.