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When you have the chance to design your own curriculum, it’s easy to get stuck. There’s just so much you could include, but what should you include? Of course, that “should” depends on your teaching philosophy and your student population. No matter which direction you go, it can be nice to have a concrete example. That’s why, today, I’m sharing the entire curriculum for my Visual Arts course.
This year-long course is mandatory for all sophomores at my school, many of whom have never previously taken art. It aims to build on their rookie skills while simultaneously developing their capacity to make their own artistic choices by tapping into their interests.
Below you’ll see all 6 units broken into 3 different categories: the materials you’ll need, the scaffolding exercises students do to build skills, and the more involved summative assessment assignment that asks students to put together everything they’ve learned. I hope you find it helpful!
The Code Name assignment asks students to invent and design a name that represents some aspect of their identity. Along with the design of that name, students are required to implement a symbolic image and a visual metaphor to reflect who they are. The artist statement that follows engages students to explain the meaning behind their name and artistic choices.
Students create a painting on a piece of cardboard that expresses some sort of message. The message can be of any kind, such as personal, serious, humorous, or political. Students are required to implement a painted frame of some kind into their piece, as well as symbolic imagery. Words are optional. Students must also apply at least three artistic conventions studied over the year.
Students create a new cartoon character. The character can be based off existing characters, but must be altered significantly to be an original creation. Students must use paint for at least half of the piece and can choose to use colored pencils and markers for the other half. I also ask students to create a 30-second story for their character that they present in front of the class.
Students draw and paint a portrait of their choice. Many students use their phones for visual references. I also have various photocopies of faces as well. Students must paint at least half of the composition with the option to use colored pencils or markers if needed. Application of two or more artistic conventions studied is also required.
Students engage in the process of three-dimensional work through a mask. Facial features are created using tinfoil including eyebrow ridges, a nose, and lips. Using hot glue, students apply the features to their plates. Papier-mâché is then used to cover the facial forms and create a mask. Students draw and paint the face however they like incorporating artistic conventions studied throughout the year.
Everything you have PLUS whatever is left in the budget for purchase. Some examples from my class would be: plaster, painting supplies, cardboard, canvas board, clay, wood, paper, colored pencils, markers, and pastels.
Students have 7 weeks to create a proposal sketch, get that approved by me, and then generate their best piece of art. There are three requirements to this project: 20 or more hours of work, completion of at least one art piece, and a final presentation to the class. I keep track of time each day by making hourly tallies in my grade book. Students choose to work individually or in groups of 2 or 3, and the media they use is their own choice. This final project always leads to high levels of intrinsic motivation and quality work.
Throughout this year-long course, my goal is for students to see themselves as artists while building basic skills. This course map has transformed countless students from believing art has no relevance in their lives to knowing they are truly artists.
What are your most successful units throughout the year?
What further questions do you have about the units and assignments discussed here?