Claire, I don´t remember seeing what level you are teaching, but if you´re using acrylic, I´m assuming HS? When I taught HS art, I at first had the same problem with brush care, as I really wanted the students to learn to use acrylics. At some point, we were all required to teach a ¨consumer education¨ lesson, so I developed a budget for each student to ¨purchase¨ their supplies. Each student was required to buy one wide brush, a palette knife, and a palette, and there was enough left in their budgets to purchase some paint--but not every color--and another brush or two. They labeled each item with their name and kept them in their in-class lockers. Since they knew they had to use the same tools every day, they took much better care of them. Paint was no longer wasted, either. Some partnered up so that one would buy blue, the other red, and they learned to share. I made a budget sheet for each student showing the starting amount, and every time they ¨bought¨ something the amount would be deducted from their budget (I rounded off the catalog prices). If they lost their budget sheet, too bad, so sad. It was like losing their wallets. I should point out that only one class did painting each semester.
If that won´t work for you, I´m not sure why the numbering system you said you tried doesn´t work. I used that system with my MSers--each student was assigned a number for any tool, and that was the number they had for the entire course--and sure, some thought they could get away with tossing the brush in the sink, but of course the next day they had only a hard, dirty brush to use. MOST learned real fast how unsympathetic I was to their plight.
> Thank you, Betty. It seems I've tried a lot of the solutions that everyone else has used. I guess I was hoping for a magic bullet, other than not painting or making students purchase their own brushes. I think that will have to be the way it goes. I like your idea of taping the brush to the artwork. Generally, I do try to match them up, but this is a great graphic way to show them you know who they are. Thank you.