6 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Tired Lessons

Have you seen those TV shows where they take an old, outdated house and rehab it? The end result is always gorgeous! The other day I got to thinking, “Why can’t we do the same thing with our old, outdated lesson plans?”

We all have them: the good ones that the kids love, hit the standards and are fun to teach… but they need a little something new.

Here are six ways to freshen up those old lessons.


1. Change the format.

Although this tip is simple, it can make a big impact. Make the paper really big or really small or just a really weird size. This cityscape skyline is totally different on 6”x 12” paper.


2. Change the medium.

If you have always done a certain project with pastels, change to paint. If it has been a painting the last few years, change it to colored pencils. Go out on a limb to see if you could even do it digitally. Here is the same lesson about radial design done in marker, relief printmaking and digitally.

radial designs

3. Add in a modern artist.

There are so many talented artists out there today creating interesting, relevant work. Focus on one of them to rehab a lesson. Check out how Don Masse’s students created these shape and color-filled images of abstract Sesame Street characters. One of my favorite blogs for finding new artists is BOOOOOOOM and I link a lot of their artists right to my Pinterest page.

4. Stretch it into two lessons.

Do you have a lesson that could be a starting point for a bigger and better lesson? Here’s an example from my art room. My students recently created clay flowers. They then took photos of their finished pieces, uploaded them and used those images to learn about photo manipulation.


5. Make it collaborative.

This rehab might just create the biggest wow factor. Look for a lesson (or two) that you could change into something collaborative. Some ideas include an art swap between schools, a collaboration between grade levels or even a large legacy piece. Working together will leave a lasting impression.


6. Try out a new philosophy.

One last way to breathe new life into old lessons is to look at them through a new lens, much like students in our Rethinking Kindergarten class do with the Reggio philosophy of education. Or, you might want to look at your lessons through a choice-based lens like Alecia talks about in this article.

No matter how old and tired a lesson seems, hope is not lost! Trying one of these tips might just lead you to a new gem.

What are some other ways you have switched up an old favorite? 

Are there any lessons you teach that you wouldn’t change a thing about?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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