Should You Use a Theme for Your School Year?

To theme or not to theme, that is the question.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t quite what Shakespeare wrote, but it is something I have been pondering lately. I have always questioned why a teacher would choose a single theme for their school year or art show. With so much subject matter available, why limit your students to a single theme?

However, the more thought I give to a school-wide or art show theme, the more I can see some benefits.

Here Are 3 Reasons to Select a School Year or Art Show Theme


1. Students Experience Being a Part of Something

artwork showing radial balance

Selecting a theme for your school-wide art show, for your classroom, or for the year helps create a sense of belonging. Every student in every grade is working together to create pieces of art with the same focus. The power of walking through an art show and seeing Kindergarteners working with the same subject as upper grades can inspire students and parents. The littles will be able to see where their skills can take them while the older students will remember the way they use to work. A common theme can really unify the student body.

2. Students are Challenged to Think of Multiple Solutions

three projects with a winter theme

Often when we finish a project I ask my students what they would have done differently. When you teach with a single theme, your students will get to work on the same subject again and again. They will be challenged to think of new and better ways to represent the same subject over and over. The challenge of drawing, painting, and sculpting the same subject helps students hone their problem-solving skills.

3. Students Dive More Deeply into the Subject Matter

three projects dealing with the sun

A singular theme allows for depth over breadth. Many times we briefly touch on a subject with one project. When you create multiple works within the same theme, you will have the opportunity to more deeply explore the subject. Instead of learning a little each year about different topics and building your art skills throughout your art career, you will learn a lot about a few topics while reviewing and increasing your art skills.

While I am not quite ready to select an art theme for my entire school year, I am no longer entirely opposed to it. Like many ideas in teaching, it can be valuable to look at both sides of the argument.

Have you ever used a theme for your school year or art show?

What were the benefits? What were some issues you tackled?

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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