Create a Syllabus That Your Students Will Actually Want to Read

Syllabus title

There is one thing that I always dread on the first day of school… explaining the class syllabus. There is something so mundane about reading a repetitive, lackluster document to your students. We should be celebrating the start of a new school year with a creative project, not painstakingly going over each SLO for the next semester. The truth is, so many of us are required to provide a syllabus for each of our courses. And in reality, it is necessary for students (and parents) to understand our expectations.

Why not create a class syllabus that is aesthetically pleasing and informative? Imagine a document that is engaging to read and communicates significant information. Enter the visual syllabus!

Download free example syllabus!

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A visual syllabus is a great tool for your students. But, how do you know what to put on it? If you’re looking for some help in creating the best curriculum possible, AOE has you covered. Check out the course Designing Your Art Curriculum where you’ll build a personalized curriculum you’ll be excited to implement. You may also want to check out the following PRO Learning Packs for even more great ideas: Planning a Sequential Elementary CurriculumDesigning Art Curriculum UnitsImplementing the National Art Standards.


 

Want to try your hand at a visual syllabus?
Here are 3 helpful tips.

1. Limit Your Text

Traditionally, syllabi have paragraphs of information that students have to sift through. A visual syllabus breaks down the information into digestible parts. Think about what parts of your syllabus need to stay. Essential items like your contact info, course description, and course materials will need to find a way into your new design. Take a look at The Complete Art Class Syllabus Checklist below to help you plan.

Click to download free syllabus checklist!

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2. Organize Your Info

Using a layout that breaks the document into sections, add your course information. Consider using bold fonts to point out clear expectations and bullets to keep things concise. When adding in your SLOs or “I can” statements, make sure the integrity of the standards stays. Substitute student-friendly language only when needed. In my example, I left the National Anchor Standards as is. Not only does this give me the opportunity to explain them to my students, but it also provides some new vocabulary words for class discussion.

3. Add Some Flare

Don’t forget to add some images. These could provide visual interest or even explain concepts. For example, include a pie chart that clarifies your grading scale or explain your supply list with drawn illustrations of the materials. If you have extra room, add in something fun about yourself. A simple sentence or photo about who you are can create a personal connection with students.

Remember to include only essential information when revamping your syllabus. Keep the design simple and clean, but add some images to create interest. Revising a boring syllabus into an appealing handout can make a genuine impact on the first day of class and keep YOU awake as you are explaining it for the umpteenth time.

Are you required to provide a class syllabus?
How do you keep it interesting for students?

Tracy Hare

Learning Team

Tracy is a middle school art teacher from central MN who strives to create rich, meaningful content and resources through her Art Ed PRO Director role at AOE.

Related

  • Casey McCullough

    Thanks I needed help with this. Any other Templates you all come up with for high school would be appreciated ?

  • Madeline Wright

    This is wonderful! Is there any way to get this sample as a template that we could change?

    • Jenn

      I’d love to have an editable version, too!

      • Ingrid Crepas

        Hi! I would also love to know what this was created with!

  • Kim Compton

    The design is terrific! How can I get a template to use for different classes?

  • artteach91

    I would love a template as well… we do a monthly newsletter home and this would be a great resource!!!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Christy

  • I too would love an editable template!! You’d be our hero forever :]

  • Chrissy Valento

    Is there a place where I could get an editable template? That would be wonderful! Thank you so very much!

  • Historian Gavin Hall

    so….it looks like everyone has asked for a template, but no response from the author. It is a great syllabus and we all would love to use it!

  • Jessica Sinclair

    I also love this would love an editable template!

  • Msmarni

    Tracy, can you provide these documents in Word rather than in a PDF? I would like to keep the complex formatting of the documents you have, but change personalize specific information.

  • Hi all – We are unable to provide a customizable template as of right now. There’s not an easy way to make sure it would work with all the different versions of Word, Pages, and other text editing programs out there. However, I can tell you that Tracy used Word to create her examples. You can pull in clip art and/or use the “lines” and “shapes” available to get a similar feel!

  • I came across this article after the discussion, but I was able to open the download into Word which then converted it to an editable PDF. I could save it as a Word document. Editing is still tricky due to sizes and formatting, but it can be done.

    • Thanks for the tip, Kathleen!

      • Bonnie Peters

        If I sent you my email could you send me a Word or google Doc?

  • k8

    Love this, but what I need are directions to create something like this.

    • Hi there- You can use any program that you feel comfortable with to create something like this. Word or Pages is probably the simplest place to start. If you’re a member of the Noun Project (https://thenounproject.com/) you can search hundreds of icons to use to make things look more visually appealing. Hope that helps!

  • Laura A Zlatos

    Done in Publisher, this would be easy to recreate. Also, it could be created on a Power Point slide, then converted.

  • ERIKA SQUANDA

    These look and are awesome!
    Just wondering if an editable version could be shared, for those of us without Indesign or other program that allows a creation like this to be made?
    Thanks for the help AOE!

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