Failure to Plan=Plan to Fail!

Click on the image above to download the PDF of this document

Do new, untouched paints, pointed sharp crayons, and freshly cut papers make you feel giddy?

When someones mentions file folders and office supplies, does your heart skip a beat?

If so, maybe you have that right/left brain balance that I do. As much as I love creativity, equally love organization.  My theory is that I must be organized in order to create! I apply this same philosophy with the students. By setting them up for an organized art room and hyper organized lessons the first few weeks, you are setting a precedence for the rest of the year and starting yourself off on the right foot!


The next two weeks on AOE (Art of Education) will be dedicated to something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside: Organizing and planning for a new school year. Stay tuned, as the weeks progress I will be sharing how I plan on paper, and how I set up and organize my art room. From supplies, to student work to seating charts, it will all be here! I will return with more lesson PDFs mid August. I have lots of great lessons to share with you for the upcoming year.

Today, in the theme of planning, I would like to share with you our curriculum. It’s always interesting to see what other districts are doing as far as curriculum goes, and seeing my curriculum here will help you to better understand many things I will roll out, including my lessons and assessments, which all tie back to this single document. We, as an art department, were able to write our own curriculum, and we decided to base it off of the Elements and Principles of Design, and incorporate the media and artist through these elements.

Download your own PDF Copy

Our Power Standards represent the most important things our students should know and be able to do throughout the year. These exact same standards are on our report card, so this is what we assess as well.  We try to hit each element with each grade level. The curriculum spirals throughout the K-5 experience.

So, how do I keep track of making sure I am hitting all of the Power Standards, and hitting them hard? I have several planning matrixes that I absolutely live by. I am better with big picture planning, so I use a full year grid.

Here is an example of my planning sheet for 1st grade.  The Power Standards correspond with the ones above. We have a month for each Art Element, which equals about one or two projects per month (hence 4 boxes in each month)

Download your own copy the matrix by clicking on the image below, and you can modify it to fit your needs! ENJOY! 

As I plan, I jot down my ideas in pencil, putting in first the lessons I know are a sure hit from last year.  I write in pencil so I can change and adapt as I work.  Once I have the year mostly planned out, I will type it up and put it in my binder.

Above is a snapshot of what my “To Do Next Year” list looks like! It’s getting full. Time to get some of it crossed off!

It causes so much less stress and headache to at least have an idea of your whole year planned out ahead of time.  Sure, I change my mind, or realize I don’t have time for something as the year goes on, but in a pinch, I’ll always have an idea planned out. Piece of mind, my friends!

Download a sample planing matrix by clicking on the image above! Modify to fit your own needs and enjoy!

How do you go about planning your year of fabulous lessons?!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Heather

    WONDERFUL! I will begin my teaching career this year as a K-8th grade private school art teacher. I have been asked to come up with a rough outline for my curriculum. After a long week of research on the internet I decided exactly on this (All elements and some principles of design.) I have started an excel spreadsheet just like the one above.

    Now, I am trying to find lesson plans to fit with each element and principle. I’m having a hard time with line. I guess I just need to be more open. I’m looking for specific lessons that cover line instead of trying to adapt a lesson and teach that through the element of line.

    Suggestions or Ideas for me to find lessons on each of my topics?

    • Hi Heather!

      I am glad we are on the same page with our curriculums and hopefully we can learn from one another! As I post my lessons throughout the year, you will notice them going through the sequence of the art elements, so hopefully those will give you some ideas.

      Line can be a tough one! I try to find artists that use line in different ways to teach line. I have a few line projects on my “lessons” page that are line-oriented projects (they will say “line” at the top) For some quick tips don’t forget about these types of ideas for line.

      -Optical Illusions (Using line to fool the eye and measuring lines)
      -Contour lines / blind contour
      -Line of Symmetry
      -Drawing different line types
      -Patterning in conjunction with line
      -Lines that show movement
      -Book, “The Straight Line Wonder” by Mem Fox

      Overal, you can overlap and connect different art elements which I have found makes a much more interesting project.

      Good luck and check back for more ideas!


    • Katie

      Hi Heather,

      What a big load you have! As a former middle school teacher, l found first hand that 8th graders do not relate to the elements and principles. Why should a 14 year old care about a line? If they can’t relate it to their lives it’s hard for them to care about their work. This lead to behavior problems and that lead to tears! Base your lessons on making meaning for those older students. For example, make a mask that incorporated three aspects of their personality into it. Anything about themselves they love, feel proud of, and you won’t find them in the trash. Then, when their not expecting it, throw in the element form for creating a three dimensional mask! You could create a whole year about Identity and before you know it you’ll be teaching elements, art history, contemporary artists, careers, the whole deal because the artwork has meaning to these students! Good luck and have fun! (And it’s okay to cry sometimes too!)

      • Heather

        Oh no! “it’s okay to cry sometimes…” Ha ha ha.. I know it will be tough first year!

        The issue is, I am in a private christian school. Because it’s a smaller school and I’m actually only part time the 6/7/&8th graders are combined into a class. It’s an elective and I will have 24 students 5x a week. So, I figured I would just start out with the elements/principles.

        This is the first year the students will come to an actual art room. Plus, the last few art teachers haven’t done much with the program so I think all of these middle schoolers would benefit from working on the elements/principles. Would you agree?

        Thanks for the suggestion though! I need as much help and input as possible!!

      • Katie, I couldn’t agree with you more! When we decided to do the Elements and Principles as the foundation of our curriculum, I was a little upset. One of the reasons I became an art teacher was because of my love of the history, culture and personal connections that art brings to people. You will see that in every one of my lessons there will be a connection beyond the elements to grab the students and make it more personal. Thanks so much for your insight!

  • Amy Bingley

    HI Jessica,
    I am always looking for ways to better what I normally do. I came across your website/blog and really love your matrix as it is so easy to read and understand. Would you mind emailing me a set?

  • Erin Mattes

    Hi Jessica,
    I really enjoy your blog and would love a copy of your matrix.
    Thanks for everything,

  • Debbie

    Hello! I’m a student teacher right now and seeing the beauty in what you say here about planning! I don’t have a job yet, of course, but I’d love to have a set of your word docs to start researching lesson plans and a planned curriculum. I’m so excited to teach! Thanks!

  • Anna

    Hi Jessica!
    I just found your website today and I LOVE it! So helpful! I am a frist year art teacher (K-5) and I’m loving it. I am appreciating all the info, input, and ideas!!! We do not have an art curriculum and I’ve got some friends who are art teachers and are sharing theirs with me. Any guidance is appreciated:) Thanks for all your great tips!!! I too would love a copy of your matrix!
    Thanks much!

    • Anna

      I just saw that you posted it on here! So helpful! Thanks:)

      • Great, Anna! I am so glad you found it. I hope it is helpful, and good luck with your first year. I sure wish I had a resource like this my first year of teaching. Keep in touch!


  • Debbie

    I am loving your blog and would love for you to share your matrixes with me.


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  • Ingrid

    Can you email me the blank docs? Thanks!!!

  • Shanna

    I am going to be teaching art for the first time next year. I love your ideas. Thanks so much for sharing! If possible, could you send me the matrix template for lesson planning. I have no idea how I am going to begin my planning for next year.

    • Shanna

      Uhm … never mind, I just found the downloads. =)

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  • Ok, looking at your power standards, I noticed it says power standards: creation. Are there other sets of standards?

    • Angie- No- Good observation, though! Basically our former standards were worded poorly. They were more knowledge based (students know secondary colors). Technically all they had to do was memorize them in order to meet this standard. This was not very artistic, so we changed our power standards so all of the verbs were focused on creation. Students will MIX primary colors to create secondary colors. MUCH BETTER!

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  • Anonymous

    I would love to have the blank word docs of the matrixes!

  • betty

    Please send the blank word docs to me also, and thanks!

  • Marilyn

    I too would love the blank word docs.   I’m always looking for an updated way to plan.

  • Kathy Manjeot

    Could you send me the blank word  documents also. The matrix, seating chart, media planner and such. Thanks!

    • You can find them all for download now on the blog- Check out the organization pull down at the top under Topics I hope to have a downloads section soon

      • Sarid Soto Tabar

        Where can i find it

  • Srunge

    I would love the matrix, planners and seating charts.

  • Alli_grant

    I’ve just started as an art teacher and I’m loving your page! Could I have a copy of this please?

  • Tina meckley

    Would you please email me your template for this and any  other grades that you use this for also that you have filled out……also can you send me the templat for your art portfolio. I love this idea but want to change some of the sections for my other grades.  Thanks!!!

  • Sarstutz

    Can you please email your template for your planning matrix. Thank you so much, I have gotten so many great tips from your blog!

  • Wendy

    Jessica,  I would like to have your planning matrix.. Here is my email.

  • Regina

    Would you please send me a copy of your planning matrix?  Thank you so much.

  • Linda Daumen

    Great ideas. Could you send copies of your planning matrix and the portfolio covers. All of my students k-7 make a portfolio and this would be a great additon. My email is
    Thanks so much, Linda

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  • Amanda Miller

    I would love a copy of the planning matrix please!

  • Kathryn

    where is grade 6-8 power stds and I Can’s??

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  • Sarid Soto Tabar

    Can i please have a copy of the matrix

  • Sarid Soto Tabar
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  • Roderick McDonald

    “If so, maybe you have that right/left brain balance that I do” That theory was debunked some time ago.
    University of Utah, 2013 – But Betty Edwards did pretty well out of it!