Tell Me About Your Art Curriculum

I’m putting together and new AOE class and accompanying resources for this fall called Designing Your Art Curriculum.  (Our team is creating 4 new classes this fall, SURPRISE! They will be released very soon.)  But first, I need your help!



Usually I am the one sharing information, not asking for information, but I thought all of you wouldn’t mind helping me so I can provide you with the best resources and answers to the questions you need answered MOST about art curriculum. I help you, you help me. That’s how online BFF’s work. :)

My goal is to compile together a comprehensive list of sample art curriculums and resources so art teachers can get a variety of examples in order to best design their own art curriculum. (just like what I did right here with Assessment ideas).  I already have a lot of great info, but I was recently thinking about all YOU expert art teachers and how you have so much to share.  The content will be distributed in several formats so you won’t have to sign up for the class to get resources for FREE.


Please Send my Way… (to

  • Any documents from your own art curriculum state/district/county art curriculum you can share.
  • Websites that have curriculum examples you think are valuable.

In the Comments Section Please Share: 

  • What are the biggest issues you have when putting together your art curriculum?
  • What resources do you wish you had to design a better art curriculum?
  • How do you plan your art curriculum? By unit/artist? Elements and Principles of Design? by Media? Randomly?
  • Do you use a pre-purchased art curriculum? If so, which one? Any misconception regarding these?
  • What else do you want to share about art curriculum?
 Thanks for helping us make the BEST and most comprehensive resources for art teachers. I am beyond excited to read your responses.

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.


  • Tracy Ralston

    1. i think the biggest issue when putting together my curriculum is timing… i either plan too much or too little. i have a hard time planning the right amount of lessons – something always gets left out whether it be a scuplture unit or a specific technique.

    2. i personally like looking at the way other people plan their curriculum as well as their lesson plans. i usually combine several that i see to help me create one that i like the best.

    3. i have actually planned my curriculum two different ways — by elements of art (with prinicples thrown in there) as well as by medium. with my students i found it easier to go by medium.

    4. i dont use a pre-purchased curriculum. my school district has one already made for us however we are allowed to use it as more of a guide then anything else — which is greate since i dont like it at all.

    5. this upcoming school year with be my third year in the same school. i have realized that i will probably be tweaking my curriculum for another few years or until i am extremely happy with it — i just dont know if that will ever happen. knowing that it is ok to change things year from year and semester to semester is what has helped me.

    I hope all of this helps you when planning your class. if you have any other questions you can feel free to visit my teaching blog

    • Tracy,

      Thank you for the valuable feedback. I honestly think we are never done tweaking our curriculum there are always so many great ideas out there. I visited your blog and am so interested to learn more about a choice based middle school art program and I bet other middle school members of the AOE team would be as well. Thank you for connecting us and for taking the time to comment!

      • Jdavis

         I am constantly revising my curriculum hoping to get it perfect and I don’t think I ever will.  It is very overwhelming!  I feel that there are so many things I want to teach them in the 6 years that I see them for.  I also have been trying to incorporate sketchbooks into my fifth grade curriculum, but I feel like I am still coming up short.  At the end of the year, when I go through them, I feel like we’re not using them to their full potential and I don’t know how to improve it.  Am I overshooting their ability?  Is fifth grade to young to understanding the value of keeping a sketchbook/journal as part of the creative process?  Does anyone have thoughts or resources to share on the subject?

        • You are not the first person to have issues with consistency in sketchbooks. Maybe I’ll write up an article about it. We were just talking about this in the Clutter Free Teaching class.

  • Hi Jessica!
       Our district has a regional curriculum that is written using our state standards. It is written by myself and the other art teachers in our regional district. In fact we spent 3 days this past spring rewriting and revising our visual arts curriculum.  I use it as a guide for all the projects I develop for the school year. All my lessons connect back to the state standards. I base my lessons on the art elements, principles and art media/techniques.

  • Brenna

    Hi Jessica!

    I am in Canada so in our school district we follow a curriculum set by the provincial department of education. My yearly plan is organized by elements of design to ensure that everything that is supposed to be covered is there. I then follow a check list for the required media when planning individual lessons, to make sure that those are covered as well. The biggest issue that I have when planning my year is the shear number of elements and media that we are supposed to cover in one year. Covering more than 30 outcomes when I see each class once a 6 day cycle for 40 minutes is nearly impossible. I try to vary it up by grade level so that hopefully by the end of their time with me they will have had exposure to each area at least once. I design my curriculum myself and much prefer that to a pre-made curriculum. I enjoy pulling together all the wonderful ideas I find from different sources and like to be able to change things up as necessary.

  • Ingrid Larson

    Ha! I am going to be entering my lucky 13th year, and because my student population and teaching assignments have never been quite the same any particular year, I have been constantly re working it, and now, I have a lot of lessons, but I am working this summer on making it coherent.  I currently am assigned to two schools: k-3  at one, k-5 at the other in the two-school district. I am the art department.
    I’m planning on working like a project manager on breaking down the whole thing by E&P, media, DBAE, skills, etc. etc. etc.
    There is so much!!! I am very interested in this, and I’ll be checking it out, and documenting what process I’m using, too. In school, our curriculum development specific to art ed resulted in student projects (as in, an ArtEd university student example of a hypothetical curriculum) that were all focused on a small subject, (a year of puppet-making, or art history through shoes, or a year of renaissance artists) that wasn’t realistic or applicable at all. I think the teacher training (that I got, anyway) was great in letting us play, but lacked in applicability.
    Anyhow, keep me in the loop!!! I am DEFINITELY interested!!

    • Great, Ingrid! This class is such an extension of what you are already doing. I am hoping to create an E-book as well to go along with the topic.

  • kristy limbrick

    i teach in Australia and this is a major issue for me….we don’t have the support you have with region/district links to art, as art is more of a teachers relief time rather than an enforced teaching. classroom teachers have to slot it into their own timetables usually. i find i love looking for a topic (e.g. Dr Seuss) and then work backwards to the outcomes and make it suit what i am doing….naughty i know!!!! i want it to be user friendly and be able to easily evaluated so i can get on with the next terms activities. i would be so excited to see any ideas that i could adapt!!!

  • Pbpugh

    Hi, Jessica!
    I have taught art for the past 7 years. The previous 10 years, I taught 1st grade, but Art is my first love!!  I teach approx. 750 children each week, some years K &1, K-2, or 1st & 2nd.  I have found that funding is a major issue (don’t we all!)  in developing my curriculum. There are some projects that I would love to do with my students, but lack the funds. I have written several grants to help fund some projects, but those are just done once. Most years I receive district funds that average about $1 per student per year. SO I really have to bargain shop!
    I follow our state benchmarks for visual arts, which is based on the national standards. At the beginning of the year, I make a chart with dates, holidays, days out of school, etc. that helps with scheduling projects. When planning my curriculum, I begin with the elements and relate them to major artists. I have discovered that my students want their artwork to be “perfect”, so I start with abstract artists like Klee, Miro, Mondrian, etc. This helps to build their confidence.  Also, it seems easier for them to find the focus element. Then I add seasonal projects. ( At Christmas, we study the stained glass windows at Notre Dame. Two years ago at Easter, we studied Faberge eggs, then each student designed their own egg.) Next,  I decide  which artists we will focus on during our artist studies. I will choose an artist and we will study about 2-3 pieces of that artist’s work, using each as an inspiration.   To complete the schedule, I will go back and “fill” in with various projects that build their skills as an artist.  I also have to consider the media that will be used. I  like to change the medium each week to give them varied experiences.
    Of course, I have to be flexible!
    I have enjoyed your blog. I have found many suggestions that I plan to implement this year.
    Thanks for all the hard work!!

    • Tbrenno

       After 10 years in K I am moving into art. The previous teacher has tons of stuff for me to go through and I feel very overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I would love to see your list of elements and which artist relate to each. I think this would really help me organize the materials in my room.

  • Lisa

    There are 3 elementary schools (K-5) in my district and right now, the other 2 art teachers and I are trying to write an elementary art curriculum.  It is quite the challenge!  We all do different lessons/units at different times and want to keep changing what we do each year.  I would love to know what other art teachers think – what do you absolutely have to include in your curriculum?  How can you design a curriculum that is a helpful resource but is also open to interpretation?

    • Kerry

      Hi Lisa, in our district, we have expectations, vocab and such listed by grade level. We share lessons and do one or 2 PLCs together each year and we do different lessons, but try to cover most of the expectations, vocab, etc of each grade level each year. Sometimes when I know I missed something in a previous year, I’ll hit it a bit harder the following year. It’s a spiraling curriculum.

  • CAl

    At my school, we teach “Fine Arts” courses which are supposed to be comprised of several major fine arts traditions: visual art, music, theatre arts, and creative writing. When I was first hired (2nd week of 2nd semester, mind you!), I wasn’t given a curriculum so I was pretty much making everything up on the fly. As you can imagine, the whole experience was rather a disaster. 

    This year, I am hitting the ground running. I hunted down the district’s curriculum binders for both art and music, and decided that instead of trying to hodge-podge all the arts together, I’m splitting the semesters into 1 visual art quarter and 1 music quarter (Q1: art, Q2: music, Q3: art, Q4: music). Theatre arts is going to be on the sidelines for a little while, and creative writing will show up in a small way from time to time. 

    Here’s what my district suggests (although they have year-long curricula for discrete art and music classes, and I had to do a little condensing for my school’s needs) for the visual arts portions. It’s a little chaotic and all over the place, but I like it anyway. I think some of the units are just diverse enough to keep the students interested! 

    K: ELEMENTS: Color (warm & cool), Line; Observing major works of art.

    1st: Art from Long Ago (cave painting, ancient Egypt, NW Native American Art); ELEMENTS: Color, Line, Texture.

    2nd:  ELEMENTS: Color, Line; Architecture; Abstract Art
    – (2nd grade’s district suggested curriculum was, in my opinion, the most boring of all of them, so I threw in a little sub-unit on Japanese Art that bridges the study of line and architecture!)

    3rd: ELEMENTS: Light, Space; Beginning Elements of Design; SW Native American Art; Ancient Rome & Byzantine Art and Architecture.

    4th: Art of the Middle Ages; Islamic Art; African Art; Chinese Art; US Art in the 18th Century.

    5th: Art of the European Renaissance; US Art in the 19th Century.

    Within each of those major units, there are small units like “types of paintings” (i.e. still life, portrait, landscape – and I threw in mural so we had an excuse to study Rivera and – even better! – MAKE a mural), and “sculpture.”

    I’m also putting a lot of thought into what skill sets I want to go with each unit: using scissors, glue, oil pastels, scratch board, different types of paints, etc. 

    And finally, each week, each class has an art masterpiece that they will learn about and use to frame their study of whatever element or subject they are working through at that time. (i.e. for introduction to warm colors, I’m using Paul Gauguin’s “Tahitian Landscape” in kindergarten. For the introduction to US Civil War- related art in my 5th grade’s 19th C art unit, I’m using the photography of Matthew Brady.)

    My one major hang up is that I don’t know exactly what art projects (both large and small) I will be doing with each class each week / day, so I’m not sure precisely what materials I will need. I still don’t even know how big my budget will be for new supplies! I’m assuming small, so I’m trying to make due with what I already have. And in any case, as a new teacher, I’m not yet a trove of projects and activities (which is where the lovely community of art teacher bloggers comes in mighty helpful!)

    Hope this helps! I just got terribly long-winded, didn’t I!

  • Holly

    I just graduated with my BFA in Art Education in April and was luckily offered a middle school art teaching position last week. I actually just signed my contract today. I have the format of how I need to write lesson plans, but as far as I know the curriculum is up to me – it’s a very small district so there’s no set curriculum in art. I’ve already started to plan and I’m feeling very overwhelmed. I’ll be teaching grades 5-8. Does anyone have any advice for me, whether it be about organizing my curriculum or general classroom management? Thanks so much!
    hberndt1@yahoo:disqus .com

    • Holly,
      Congrats on getting the position! I am so happy for you!
      It’s hard to know where to start with advice, but hopefully the past 2 years of blog posts I’ve written can help you if you search by category. Email me any specific questions, anytime! Jessica

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  • Jennifer Jolly

    Hi Jessica!

    I can not begin to thank you enough for all your valuable insight into art education and the whole curriculum side of it. 
    I just got hired on as the K-8 art teacher and 6-8 science teacher. This is my first year teaching and it is in a Catholic school. I have the state standards and dioceses standards, which are the same except for pulling God and morals in on the lessons here and there. Needless to say my head is swimming! I’m working on a shoe string budget, of course, arn’t we all? lol 
    I approached starting a curriculum plan with the E&P and am now looking at it more from breaking it down into medias to keep everyone on the same page so in the few minutes between classes I’m not jumping from one extreme to the other with materials. 
    I came across your break down of clay ideas worksheet and everything finally clicked! I felt that sort of explanation was more beneficial for me to make sense of what each grade level should be doing. I feel like I’m getting overwhelmed by trying to hit all the standards but keep coming up with different ideas and directions I need to go into. I’m also trying to figure in the time constraints of a rotating 6 day schedule for 50 minutes each time. I feel like if I choose to do some of these lessons they could be too complex for the time frame even if I simplify them some then other area are getting short changed. Any suggestions from anyone I would greatly appreciate. 

    Thanks again, Jessica for sharing your wealth of knowledge. It has been a tremendous help!

    • Jennifer,

      You are very welcome! Teaching art is such an intricate process and I find great satisfaction dissecting each little part to help improve my teaching and all of yours!
      Just remember that every lesson doesn’t have to hit everything. It might have 2 main focusses or 3. You won’t always hit everything, with every single grade level and sometimes you just have to go with the basics and add in more aspects each year as you go. It’s a continuing process that evolves. If someone had the magic formula to make a perfect curriculum it would be out there. It isn’t because it’s such an individual teacher thing, and a fun continuing challenge.
      I like breaking down the 50 minute lessons and just choose a few things to accomplish. It’s better to have less planned, then overwhelm yourself and rush cleanup. You can always take 5 minutes to review, play a game or read an art story. I hate feeling rushed and the kids won’t get as much out of it.
      Hope it helps!

  • Hannah

    I am a new art teacher and I am working on my curriculum for the 2014/15 school year. I found this article and am thrilled to find the update of compiled information. Where can I find it? Please email me:

    Thank you!!!!!!!

  • Shannon

    I am an art teacher working on my curriculum mapping. I would like to get an updated copy of your Design your art curriculum-An art teachers handbook. It would be very helpful!
    Thank you!

  • JenSatter

    Hi! I just finished my student teaching and was offered a job as an elementary art teacher! It happened mid-year so I was hired on a Friday and started Monday! So far, I have been using online information but would love some help planning curriculum. The biggest challenge for me is planning lessons for K-5 and keeping things straight between two schools! Have you created something for curriculum planning yet? It would be such a great help for me!

  • Art MomWV

    Hi! I am about to start (In August) at a K-12 school as the Art Teacher. I will also be itinerate at another elementary school (so many days a week in the morning doing elementary at school B then traveling back to home school A and then middle and high there, then one day I’m at school A all day doing elementary there and then middle and then high) WHEW! I am trying not to become overwhelmed with the thought of planning for every grade and covering two schools. Any advice for my curriculum mapping? My largest class will only be around 20 kids, and the smallest around 10. Hope I can pull this off!