Switching Things Up Intentionally


This year I decided to shift the way I was teaching – not dramatically and also very dramatically. My classes previously had been yearlong, this year they are semester long – so there’s shift one. I also noticed that I had students not really “come to life” until we got into the 3D unit, which was later on in the course, so I decided to move things around – shift two. I also knew I wanted students to make more student directed art, so I shifted things around a lot. In this post, I am going to share each slideshow I used during the units, along with all of the resources I used with students. If you use them, please let me know how it works for you! If you’d like to see the lesson plans that I wrote up for my admin, I have all of those too.

Drawing Exploration

I have already shared how I began the year which immediately leads us into the drawing and materials exploration unit. The idea here is for students to make some choices, practice some techniques, figure out what they like and don’t like within the drawing materials. I also wanted them to begin to themselves as artists and creators – the ideas aren’t super innovative, but I wanted them to find some success. Students used a choice board to explore and then demonstrated some mastery of materials in a drawing of an eye – which if you don’t teacher art or haven’t taught high school, this is every students’ favorite thing to draw.

Painting Exploration

This led into the painting exploration unit. Another unit where students were to explore what they liked and didn’t like. Students were pumped to be painting in week 3 of school – which oftentimes paint is this special material that doesn’t come out for months. I was excited to have them painting. We started with two days of 50 color challenge with browns and black mixing, then we moved into a daylong Color Matching Challenge game which I stole from Art of Ed. I love this game because it really helps boost the growth mindset and practice. I’m also able to support students in mastery through truly noticing where they are as we start and giving them a color that works for them. The gist of this “game” is: students receive a paint chip, they have to match the color exactly, then call me over when they think they’ve done it, I tell them yes or no and give them advice. If it’s a yes, they paint their color on a large sheet of paper in the front of the room and write their name underneath and get a new paint chip. If it’s a no, they keep working. Every student normally gets about 4 colors done because I progressively give students who are matching really quickly “harder” colors so they have to really work at this skill. After this day, we played around with watercolors and watercolor techniques.


Museums and Responding to Artwork

We then moved into museums and responding to artwork. We engaged in this unit that I shared during the summer. And it was just as successful as I had hoped. Students were thoroughly engaged in the museum, the music, and the context. They were making incredible connections and really pushing their own thinking about art and the choices made in a painting, in a museum, and in the video.

Clay Exploration

Being 4 weeks into school, we began our clay unit, something students beg to do. I was really excited that we were so quickly into this unit. I shared how I did this unit last year and I kept it pretty much the same. Students started with a pinch pot, then added coils to change the shape and size. Students also explored the wheel and where last year the things that were thrown were sort of lumps and nothingness. This year the students were actually making small containers and feeling very successful.


Ideation and Creativity

After clay, I wanted to start moving into ideas and creativity. I wanted students to begin to push their ideas from the initial thoughts into something more. But I also knew they needed to nurture that and practice it. So we did a week of creativity nurturing. We started the week with an introduction to creativity and growth mindset in art using children’s literature. The students read or listened to the books, then did an activity at the table based on the book or the theme within. The next day we began our mindfulness practice and played some creativity games – the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse game which is always fun and funny, then they could choose between a few other exercises. Then I wanted to push them into ideation and moving beyond their initial idea – I have used Melissa Purtee’s Untrite Activity a few times and I have had success. I did it again this year and found that it fell flat – I’m not sure if it’s Trite imagery that I’m “fighting” against but moreso against the initial idea I’m fighting against. I want students to push past the simple idea, push past the symbols, and really express what they are thinking. I had initially hoped the Untrite activity would lead into the next week but I scrapped that somewhat.

StopMotion Exploration

A new addition for the units was stopmotion – something I really didn’t have a lot of experience with, but have dabbled in over the years. I had hoped to link the Untrite and Ideation stuff into the stopmotion really closely, but in the end didn’t. I had them explore it in a super fast way. They watched these how to make a stop motion video – this one and this one. They also had to watch 3 completed stopmotion videos – this one, this one, and this one. These weren’t what I expected out the exploration but wanted them to see what was possible. We had a weird week of classes with PSAT’s occurring and a holiday.

So I had them work collaboratively and explore the stopmotion app, then create a video transforming something. They could choose to either transform their trite idea into an untrite idea OR they could just transform something. Most students chose to transform something. This was super fun to watch students engage in the action of making a stopmotion video as well work together to figure out how to limit their hand in the video or make something move smoothly.


Recycled Fashion Show

This week we were closing up the exploration stuff. This week we did our recycled fashion show. In the past I’ve had loads of materials for students to either choose from or be assigned – caution tape, trash bags, etc. This year though I paired this up with paper sculpture so they could use paper products (envelopes, newspaper, magazines, brown paper, etc.) to create their fashion pieces. This unit culminated in a fun fashion show on Friday where students modeled their work, videoed the walk, and assessed each other. I certainly should’ve scaffolded this assignment better but overall I think it was successful.


Moving Forward

As we move into the “larger” units this week, we will circle back to check in on our community expectations. Students are also going to reflect on the materials and methods of learning we have engaged in, so they can start to set meaningful, achievable goals for themselves.

Our first big unit is “How do artists engage the viewer?” – this I’ve shared before in this post and this one, along with the UDL webinar that describes the evolution of it (I’m not on until minute 51, but my friends who are in this too are amazing!) I am tweaking it a bit to ensure that I am showing more viewpoints and resources, so stay tuned for that blogpost. This is the unit that will model for students how to complete their next two units, ones they get to choose from. These units are framed as questions so students are able to answer the question through their research, development, and creation of work.

I have created a website for students to use inspired by Jaimee Taborda (and helped a ton by her) as well as Ian Sands. The units as they are right now are definitely a work in progress and will continue to be refined. Students in my Foundations of Art classes (which is what I’m teaching this semester) will choose from these 5 units:

  • How do artists engage a viewer?
  • How do artists express identity?
  • How do artists observe the world?
  • How do artists express perspective?
  • How do artists incorporate math and science?

Obviously on the chart, the other units/assignments/questions could be used in Foundations or 2D design, but I’m trying to limit the choices for students, so they can actually make a choice. Also, I am trying to keep things for each course a bit different. I’m incredibly excited about how I’ve planned for this semester and can’t wait to share what happens when we get into the units!

How do you plan for your year? your courses?

What are your intentional choices and scaffolds you put into place?

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