Part 3 of Planning!

So now that you’ve gotten the basic idea of how I plan – I’m going to quickly (hopefully) go through the remainder quarters – digging into the final units that are much more student centered and filled with choice. I’ve also decided that I will share my units as I plan them along with what I’ve done and created in the past so you get a full idea of what goes into each unit and then each lesson. But that’s not for today’s post…

2nd Quarter

As I segue into 2nd quarter, I’m going to do a Social Issue Unit – it’ll be semi-quick, about 2 weeks tops. The quarter ends right around Election time and although this year is not a presidential election, I think it’s important to bring issues that effect all of our lives into focus for students. This is a unit (along with my past units using this same theme) I will focus on in another blog post.

2nd quarter

3D Design

This is one of my favorite units. Students are normally super psyched to make things three-dimensionally or incredibly adverse to it – either way it creates this fun excitement. Students are traditionally most excited about using clay initially but once they begin, they realize it’s not ghost and it’s much harder to handbuild. Some students take to the clay but this is where I really begin to widen my choices and demonstrate a variety of materials for students to engage in. We also focus on a variety of artmaking methods as well – collaborative, for another and for a client. So within this time period, we will do a 3D bootcamp exploration  which will involve paper sculpture, paper mache, clay handbuilding, the wheel and glazing clay pieces. I’m basically stealing Cynthia Gaub‘s “Around the Room” idea where students will engage for a few days within each “center”/material/method. They will explore and create something small or collaborative that isn’t too high stakes. Then they will create a structure for another person or client. I haven’t worked out all the kinks at all with this – but I think designing for another human connects us and develops students empathy for others. More on this as I plan this for sure. We will also do a recycled fashion piece – this is super quick – like a one week thing. It’s fun, it’s collaborative and it ends in a super fun fashion show that everyone (including administration loves).


​And then to segue from 3D design into drawing we will do a Stop Motion Workshop – so students will understand the basics of creating a stop motion video or gif and create at least one.


Now this is one of the hardest units, students have this horrible mindset and think if they aren’t touched by god that they can’t draw ever. I’m hoping some of the front loading of growth mindset and specific feedback will help even more with this mindset and this unit will be even more enjoyable. Although I do love it because kids grow so much within it. So again there will be an expanded exploration of materials – many of the “basic” materials will have been used through 2D design but I try to pull out a few of the fancier things or things that are “drawing” specific (although I really don’t believe anything is only one type of anything). Last year I did a bootcamp, where each day we started with a quick drawing of our hand and posted it up so we could see the growth (this wasn’t monitored by me in a successful way so it sort of flopped) and each day we focused on something different – perspective, value, figure drawing, observational drawing, illustration, and a few other things. I think I may do a modified version of this with a better focus or goal within the bootcamp. Students were great at first but floundered in the middle without completely knowing what they were working towards. But then when it came time to make choices last year and create/synthesize their learning – they chose well, challenged themselves and used what they knew or went back and brushed up on something they needed to help their work. It was a hard unit but students had developed enough trust with me that they were willing to take some risks. This year I’m contemplating changing the choices to enlarging a photo, observational drawing (which I’ll probably narrow it down initially) and a political cartoon (this is based on student surveys wishing we had done more with social issues).

3rd Quarter

So now we are in the dead of winter, snow days, lack of motivation, lack of sunlight and warmth in Worcester… it’s a hard time mentally. So! Here’s where things start to get even more fun! Students are actually beginning to break away from needing me so much and they are making choices and discussing their choices all the time. This is the good stuff. And to segue into this quarter I will do a Printmaking Bootcamp. This is something that I haven’t done before – but I think a 2 week period of monoprinting using plexiglass, monoprints from gelli plates, linoleum prints, screenprinting…  This could be some great stuff to get kids excited. And it’ll be a great jumping off point into Painting.

3rd quarter

Before I get into Painting – I want to point out that there are a LOT less post its. At first, I was thinking maybe I just hadn’t thought enough about these segments moving forward, but then I realized there was just a whole lot less of “me” involved. That I literally created structures rather than explicitly being a part of everything. Students guide the learning, the teaching, the discovery. There’s a lot less of me which is a good thing.


So here is where I find the most fun – painting. I’m a painter by “trade” but I really just love the discovery of color. I taught elementary school for 9 years and I loved that magic when a student discovers that yellow and blue makes green, and that a bit more blue makes that gorgeous turquoise and then some red turns it into a funny mud color. I thought I would never see that magic again. Turns out adolescents forget, and many of my students have never ever painted – they come from all over the world and oftentimes painting isn’t something they’ve been exposed to. So it is magic still.

So we will explore paint (basically magic making) and I’m going to try this game from the Art of Ed. It sounds like it could be a fun time. And matching colors is really important and I hate forcing kids to do those lame copy a masters or copy a magazine photo. This sounds way more fun. We will also explore watercolor. I pretty much suck at watercolor because I never had any instruction on it. So I know how to make things drip and use salt – but that’s not really very good. So I use a LOT of youtube videos and lots of experimentation with the kids. Some kids really love watercolor, some fall into my camp. But I do try and show kids stuff I’m not good at – why would I want to limit their experiences because of my own limitations? You can see the other things I’m going to do – underpainting (something I’ve forgotten to teach! oops.) and paint techniques (sgraffito, glazing, opacity, blending, etc). Then the choices for this unit are 1) use the logo they created in the 2D design unit and create an entire branding (color schemes, letterheads, samples, all the things) 2) Landscape (this may be expanded or combined with surrealism) 3) a series of abstractions. This may change as I see things in the world but as it stands I think these provide some great painting opportunities that will challenge students.

and here comes the choice!!!

The following unit(s) are really open – REALLY OPEN. We discuss the artistic process – reflecting on how we have done been doing it throughout the year, identifying each piece and decided how we work best, and then we work. They are given some structure in that I structure their research but keep it super open as well and I provide the themes they can choose from (and as always they can come up with their own if they hate these).

This year’s themes are: Inside/Outside; Float/Force; Chaos/Routine; Order/Disorder. These are pretty open and I love to look for contemporary artists working sort of within these in a variety of media to push kids to look for something new to make/create.

And then…they work through the process: research, sketching, exploring, feedback, reworking, reflecting, making, remaking, failure, sadness, anger, remaking, complete and utter joy and pride, artist statement, present/share.

this is the real magic. when students choose. when students are fully engaged. when students are bringing their own experiences into their work and connecting elements from everywhere. this is what all the other stuff is about.

Quarter 4

4th quarter

So here’s some new stuff for me. I’ve had students do their own creating – making a series of work based on a theme: one I’ve given them or one they’ve decided on. But I really want students to begin to take control of their sharing/presenting. So I have set the goal to be a student led show – there’s a show we do in May, and I basically want the kids to do everything for it. Not because I’m lazy (actually it’ll be the hardest thing for me to not help) but I want them to truly take control of their learning and sharing. I want them to write a proposal for their work, for the show, for their ideas. I want them to create cohorts where they hold each other accountable. I want them to do all of this.

I can hear you… you doubters. How can kids do this? Teenagers are so lazy, they will never make their deadlines… They will grade each other so easily. They will make goals so easy. They won’t have the show ready. They won’t be prepared. I hear you! AND I DARE TO SAY, that they will all rise to this. This is what the entire year has prepared them for. I basically will kick them from the nest (while also flying next to them if they need) and they will fly.

Seniors will begin a legacy project (another new thing for me) – with some choices. I certainly need to vet these through administration, but I’d love for there to be art left behind from our seniors. It’s an immediate advocacy thing – it also continues to build the culture in the classroom and school to show that this is actually their space.

And then to culminate the year – students will create a piece for someone/someplace else – site specific and create a proposal. I am stealing this idea from a few friends who run a National Art Honor Society – except I’m doing it on a smaller scale initially (unless a kid wants to go huge). I want students to think about where art lives in the world and why it lives there – then figure out why or who they need to contact to make it happen – whether it’s another teacher, administration, a community person or a business. I want them to see how art can be more visible.

Final Exam

For their final exam, I want them to create a piece that demonstrates who they are and their growth based on the course.

This proved to be an incredible process this year and I want to keep that. Students really thought about their growth and who they were – some of their actual pieces weren’t spectacular but their reflecting and thinking was.

During the final exam time, we completed a Visual Thinking Strategy experience, we did this cool Poster Strategy using questions they had initially formulated and they shared their work. It was a great end to a very full course. And I’d like to keep this as a culminating experience.

Let me know if this was helpful! I’m looking forward to sharing more about each unit and how I provide options within each area. I’m also looking to get some feedback and have some good dialogue about peoples’ experiences! Thanks!

1 thought on “Part 3 of Planning!

  1. I’m digging this blog, Lizzie!

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