Is Your Art Curriculum Designed Selfishly?

I will admit : My first few years of teaching I was a selfish art teacher when designing my art curriculum. I honestly was just trying to “use my strengths” to teach my students. But I made one big mistake. I totally ignored areas I didn’t feel strong in when I put together my curriculum, especially in areas like clay and weaving. I didn’t understand them as well, and was reluctant to take the time to learn something new in these teaching areas. (Remember folks, this was before Pinterest and even before there were very many art ed blogs out there at all!)  I honestly had no clue how to teach weaving on a loom with yarn. I honestly did not know how to make a mask out of clay. Or at least I didn’t know the best way, therefore, half of my art curriculum had HUGE gaps, and I was terrified to even attempt it. This was before we had PLC’s so asking another art teacher for advise was seen as a ‘no-no.”

It took a huge curriculum review process in order for me to be FORCED into teaching weaving and clay at every single grade level, every year. A balanced, sprialing curriclum is best for our students and will build their skills through the K-12 art expirince. So, with a brave face, I learned. I asked. I researched and low and behold, weaving ended up being one of my favorite units to teach! I suprised myself, but more importantly my students surpised me with how much they could do. I even went out on a limb and let students choose their own food clay projects. I was letting go! The kids were loving it, and so was I.

Today I am asking you to take a long, hard look at your curriculum as it stands today: Are you designing your art curriculum selfishly?

Do you purposefully leave out areas you know you SHOULD be teaching because it takes too much time, creates too much mess, or you feel self conscious about your skill level teaching areas like photoshop or printmaking?

I believe we are constantly tweaking our art curriculum until the day we are done teaching. It’s a refinement process that is fun, exciting, and should make our teaching easier and more effective. I wanted a chance for teachers to take their art curriculum and revamp it from head to toe, and not just simply copy a “follow me” pre-designed curriculum, (yuck) but instead be able to dig deep in resources and design a plan that fits their school, their students, and their teaching situation best.

This is why we’ve created the online classDesigning Your Curriculum.” This is the perfect class for teachers who have a solid art curriculum already (whether written yourself or part of a county wide mandate) but want to refine. Teachers who want planning matrices like the one I like to use below, that help them fill in the gaps, assess what is working for them and their students teach year, and what needs to be changed. Teachers who want to add more creativity to their curriculum and “amp up” projects that are feeling a bit old and stale. Teachers who want feedback from other art teachers on their curriculum and see what others around the country are doing.

Hint: If you click on this image you can download this as a PDF

If you don’t have a strategically planned art curriculum (no matter what your teaching philosophy or style) you will struggle in this fast paced profession. Don’t be like me! Don’t be selfish when it comes to Designing Your Art Curriculum.

Side-note: If you are ready to get really honest with yourself, this may be the single most powerful class you will take. It will set the stage for your assessments, it will impact your classroom management, and is the foundation of what you do every single day. Learn more about this course and sign up today! Our next offering of this class starts on January 1st.

What areas are lacking in your art curriculum?

How do you make sure your curriculum is well balanced?




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.


  • Artprojectgirl

    I am definitely lacking technology photography, video, animation and graphic design. I would love to teach photography to kids but I cannot see it happening with our large class sizes. I think 15 for photo is manageable! Technology shouldn’t be such a hard thing to fit in. Teachers like me who love it have a hard time because there is no budget and they won’t hook macs even if we get a grant or them! As an artist I cannot even imagine trying to teach on a pc it scares me!

    • Erica,
      Yes, I find many teacher’s desires do not match their resources. I always find even if the teacher is using technology to teach, it’s better than nothing. The best of course, is getting the technology into the hands of students. I had the same issue with PC’s at my school. I think the iPad craze should help this issue.

    • holly

      We are a PC school, my undergrad is in graphic design. At home I’m a mac girl at school pc. Either platform works. You just have to adjust.

  • KAS

    In my district this year art contact time has been severely reduced. I will see each class about 10 times, if I’m lucky.  This realistically only allows for 3 projects or so. To balance out my curriculum, I try to give each grade level one 3-D lesson, be it fiber art, clay or sculpture.  In other words, not all grades will get all media in a year’s time.  Also, I get only $100.00 for 1,200 students the entire year. So whatever materials I have on hand limits what I can do.  

    • That is the smallest budget I have ever seen given the amount of students you have! It sounds like you are doing a nice job of balancing everything. I think choosing at least one 3D art project is very reasonable. Thanks for giving ideas and hope to other art teachers who also might be in your situation.

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