Clay Curriculum

The following are the Power Standards that I follow during the month of January. In January, all elementary teachers in our district are working with clay at the same time. We do not spread it out through the year. We do all grade levels in one month. Do you now understand my Clayfobia?

Each month, our art department plans together beforehand to share ideas.  I, as the department facilitator, make a planning matrix that helps everyone brainstorm ideas. We meet weekly as a department to collaborate. It’s wonderful. Wouldn’t you love to have the masterminds of 7 amazing art teachers each week to help you refine your practice?  Throw in a little organization from yours truly to gather our thoughts and we are truly an unstoppable team!

Here is an example of the ideas we generated according to the above Power Standards for our month of clay in January. I hope these ideas get you thinking of new clay projects and the important clay methods that can be taught through each project.

Below are the projects that I chose to do for each grade level…As you can see, each teacher can choose the project they want, as long as it fulfills the skill for that grade. More details to come on these projects, planning for clay, and more in the upcoming posts.  Consider it an appetizer.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Variety of Pinch Pot Projects

2nd Grade: Coil Pots in Red Earthenware Clay

3rd Grade: Slab Clay Clastles

4th Grade: Thiebaud Inspired Clay Cupcake Containers

5th Grade: Pop Art Clay Food….

You’ll have wait on this one… Big Suprise!

So, there you have it. A clay curriculum with a little bit for everyone.

Much, much more to come with details of each project and the planning behind.

Do you get any common planning time with other art teachers? Tell me about it!

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.


  • Angie

    I like the idea of the planning time, but every week sounds like a lot. Our elementary art teachers meet once a month, which is more than I’ve had anywhere else. I love having the interaction. We all have such different schedules that planning together wouldn’t work.

    I don’t like to spread out clay projects. Actually, anything I’m doing, I want the mess there and gone. Everyone paints at once, does clay at the same time, printmaking, etc. Naturally, at the ends of projects there is some difference, but having everyone doing stuff at the same time works for me as far as organization goes. The only problem, of course, is storage.

    I’ve seen the cupcakes on a few sites lately. I love the idea. I may use these for one grade this semester, not sure which one.

    • I’ve been doing the cupcakes for years.. I have not seen them on other sites, but I would love to see how they do it. Ideas sure do circulate, don’t they! I agree, the mess at one time is very nice. Storage is also my issue, which I’ll talk more about later in the week. Thanks for your wonderful comments. I always value your insight!

  • Priscilla

    Hi Jessica,

    I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and immediately subscribed! Your organizational tips and planning ideas have really inspired me! I’m the only elementary art teacher in my district and I don’t have much community or collaboration with other art teachers… :( So – you can imagine that your insights have been a breath of fresh air.

    Anyways, I am really excited you are doing clay week here on AOE – because I am gearing up to begin my clay unit, and boy do I have clay phobia ;) I am planning on doing all grades (K-6) at the same time. My main concerns are storing all the pieces as they dry – and of course – containing that mess!

    I’m looking forward to the rest of clay week! Also, I think I’m in love with those cupcakes :) I would love to hear more about that process!

  • Anna

    I love different clay ideas! I did clay with my K’s and 1st grade about a month ago- pinch pots and pinch “pot” (pinch pot upside down)birds- they are very cool. I plan on doing clay with 2-5 in the next coming months and I like doing a couple of grade at a time and spreading it out. That is just me… also space is a concern and it works well to spread it out. Thanks again for the ideas and taking time out of your day to share with us!!! (Still can’t believe both you and I went to Luther and Viterbo!!!) :)

    • Anna- I agree. I love the connection we have! Thank you for keeping in touch!

  • S. Brooks

    I am a former clay-fobic. But I forced myself to sign up for a week-long clay class in an art teacher workshop, for 2 years in a row. I helps to play with clay along with other art teachers, lots of brainstorming and tips. Now I can’t get enough of it!

    I do clay in all grades (1-5) in Jan/Feb. I have an old library cart to store clay pieces on as well a stack of the plastic bread carriers from the cafeteria (kinda like milk crates, but for bread), they stack easily and I (or my custodians) am able to carry them from one school to another since I only have a kiln at one school.

    My students use 12″ x 12″ thin masonite boards to work on the clay. I had my husband buy them at Home Depot, I think it was $15 for 50 squares. One side stays clean and the top is always dirty from clay. Very easy.

    I would love some tips on making paper mache as easy as clay!


  • HeatherArt

    Don’t waste time precutting slabs!! Get a Chinese tile cutter, the kids love to watch me cut 25 perfect tiles from a bag of clay, it’s magical to them! And super fast, like 20 seconds!

    • Morgan

      where can you buy a Chinese tile cutter?

  • Tristan Simpson

    Hi Jessica,

    Can you post the Grade 5 photos of the Pop Art Clay food?
    Also can you please give instructions on how to create the projects from K-5?


  • Amy Cory

    I am looking for a clay lesson for 5th grade, the problem as always is space. I have 9 sections of 5th and I can rotate with other lessons but if I choose a large project with 2 or 4 sections I have major storage issues. I was thinking of pendants but that seems so small. I would love some suggestions.

  • Katie

    My colleague and I really like how your district has organized the power standards into easy to read/apply vertical scaffolding. Do you have this for other art content areas as well (sculpture, fibers, collage, etc)?