Teachers, Forget About Lesson Plans!

I get it. Teachers love new art lessons. You do. Lets be honest. Here is what I have noticed:  Every week, my lessons page rocks the stats with the most hits by all of you.  No matter what other things I have posted, lessons still rule with you, even if I have not posted a new one for weeks.  So, today, I am here to ask…


When I started this blog, I didn’t just want to show lessons from my classroom.  I did want to provide some lessons, because those are the backbone of what we do as art educators, but more importantly I wanted to explore all of those little things that happen in the art room, from the organizing, to planning your curriculum, writing new assessments, teacher and student motivation, and resources to help you get the job done.  I wanted to zero in on one simple trick that can make your life easier like lining up your class quietly, or talking about why assessment matters. I think this is because I don’t just teach art. Remember?  I am also the facilitator for our art department. I plan professional development for the department’s art teachers, and help them with all of those “little things” that make us well rounded teachers. So, my experience is rooted not just in lesson ideas and sharing but in helping art teachers with the daily things that maximize their teaching potential and fining out WHAT they need in order to best MEET their needs.

This is the same philosophy I have with my blog. I want to meet you needs. Be different, and provide something that isn’t necessarily out there. I have lessons to share. I have lots, but I would RATHER show you quick formative assessment to help you check for understanding, motivational books that inspire you, and organizational tips that you can apply right now in your classroom.

Too Much Change

Change for the sake of change is meaningless.  Why do you want to change?  What do you want to change?  When do you want to change it?  What kind of change do you want to measure?  How will you measure it?  Change takes time, energy, money… it’s important to be purposeful in what we change, to understand why the change is needed, and most importantly to be able to measure the success/failure of such changes.

I think teachers could be so much more successful if they focused not just on finding a new lesson (changing), but on HOW you teach a lesson, what strategies you use, what resources you use behind the scenes and what management techniques you might use to make that lesson go smoothly.  Do you fully understand how to assess the lessons you already have, in order to know what new lessons you might NEED?  Stop simply searching for the new.  Search out how to make what you have – better.

This is where I am at as a teacher.  I have my tried and true lessons. I may teach a few new lessons each year, however, I would like to hone in on all the other parts of my teaching to ensure the students are getting the lesson, and that the lesson is teaching what I intended. Not just throwing something new at them all the time and hoping it goes well.  My mission is to help all of you with that as well.

So…You can go anywhere for a new lesson, they are flooding the internet and art teacher blogs.  If you want a new lesson every day don’t come here. Come to the Art of Education, for the rest of the story. Our story. The story of the WHOLE package of becoming an art teacher. The whole package that you can give you students so they can succeed in our changing world.

Do you just go to blogs because of lessons?  How much do you value the other content (organization, time-saving techniques, assessment strategies, resources, etc.) compared to lessons?  Let me know in the comments!

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.


  • S. Brooks

    As I said on Feb. 14th…”I think being a REALLY GOOD art teacher means that we focus on the quality of the Art we are teaching…not flat boring lessons, but engaging, consuming, creative, rich lessons…and integrate all the “other stuff” into those rich lessons.”

    I appreciate what you are doing, and read every post and have integrated some of your strategies, but none of it works if you don’t have rich, engaging lessons to begin with. So that may be why readers are so focused on lessons. Just my thoughts.

    • Thanks for your insightful comments. We are always evolving and changing as educators and we are never done learning. We all have to start somewhere. You are a great teacher, keep it up!

    • Teachers want lessons because then they do not have to think of their own!

  • You made some great points! I had the same feeling when we started writing the Teaching Palette. Moving forward with your own development as a teacher requires thoughtful reflection on how to make the lesson plan better. A lesson plan is more than the how-to or connection to an art form. Remember student teaching? It didn’t matter how prepared you are with your written lesson plan -it is the real world experience that helped you grow and make the lesson plan work.
    It is the “extra” things (hidden from outsiders) we do that make a learning experience successful. Think about how important organization of supplies are for preparation of your lesson or how classroom management can help increase student attentiveness and impact student success.
    My favorite phrase from adults – “How did you get the kids to do that?” I would like to think it had more to with my teaching and less about the lesson plan.

    P.S. I still love finding a great new lesson plan:)

  • S. Brooks

    To teach a concept, one needs to be an expert on it so one can break it into parts to make it more understandable and offer the support that’s needed to help others grasp it, too.

    Your blog does a great job with the mechanisms and procedures surrounding the lesson. Exactly the resource newer teachers need.

    More expereinced teachers need tweaking now and again, but are really looking for art lesson inspiration!
    Have you thought of sending info about your blog to colleges/universities?

    • S. Brooks,

      Yes, I have thought about trying to gain exposure with preservice teachers. I wish I would have known about a resource like this getting started. Thanks for the tip!

  • karenolaussen@gmail.com

    I love your blog, don’t change it. One can find lessons everywhere! I love reading about organization in the art room, discipline issues and solving them. I love to read about schedules, managing the revolving door of classes in and out, clean-up routines, managing supplies, using the Smartboard for lessons and the list goes on. Your blog is my daily professional development and I thank you! You help me rethink what I am doing and hopefully do it better!

    • Karen,
      Thank you for your kind words. As I continually say, Together we are Better! I am glad you are enjoying the content and interacting with all of you is MY daily PD. Thanks!

  • Angie

    I want it ALL. I’m just returning to teaching after a 7 year absence, so I have been trying to remember how I did things before. Did they work well? I think so, but I’m just getting back into the groove. Also, classroom management was never my strong point, so I definitely look at any blog that mentions these things. At the same time, while I have my old lessons, I always look for new ones. And, I also agree with Brooks’ comment, the more engaging my lessons are, the fewer problems I have with classroom management anyway.

    • Angie,
      I agree, and like Theresa, we all still love finding that perfect lesson, myself included. And yes, WE WANT IT ALL! :) Good luck with everything!

  • New lessons and new ideas appeal to the artist in me. If a new technique, an interesting application of media, or a unique visual product excite me, chances are they will excite my students, too. I’m always trying to meet the challenges and interests of my students–talented, passionate young people who excel when connected with novel and untested opportunities. I’m grateful to your site and others for helping me plan engaging units of study that result in beautiful and memorable art expeciences.

  • Deb

    Jessica, Your site is one of the best I’ve seen because you address the ins and outs of the classsroom not just the lesson plan. When I started teaching art I got most of my lesson plans off the internet. I found some to be very good and some, that although they were cute, did not provide enough information to truly teach any substance. I am always striving to be an excellent art teacher not a “craft teacher”. With no formal teaching experience other than hands on for the last 5 years, the information at your site is very valuable. Thanks for what you do, I wish our county provided funding for a job like yours.

    • Deb,

      Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you are finding the site helpful- and yes, I really hope my district continues to value and fund my position. Each year I cross my fingers. I absolutely love what I do, the balance of leadership and teaching.


  • Anna

    I come to your site for inspiration, tips, motivations, etc… I love that I get an email from your blog everyday introducing a new topic. Very informative and I love learning! I am always looking on how I can improve myself and I find your tips very helpful. I just keep pluggin away:) Thanks again!

  • Amy

    I for one am looking for lessons, but not to stop there, I also need to know ‘How’ to teach those lessons properly. I was given the opportunity of my dreams. With no formal schooling, but lots of time under my belt, I now teach an after-school art enrichment class. These students are at the end of their day (5:00 pm) and need a creative outlet. I have students that do not always want to be there. Although I love doing this, I find it sometimes difficult to ‘keep’ their attention until they can see how their efforts can shine through in their own art. Some of these kids have never been exposed to art because it is not allowed during the school day in our district. I am so grateful for your blog, thank you.

  • Amy

    Again, Thank you!!!

  • I am really enjoying your discussion of classroom management. It is one of those things that always needs thought, updating, evolving. I enjoy hearing about your self reflection and goal setting. Your blog inspires me to do the same. Thank you for putting it all out there to inspire and push your colleagues. Keep up the good work!

  • Jessica, your enthusiasm is contagious. Keep reminding us what’s important aside from the lesson itself. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your online presentation topic.

  • Beth K

    I am THRILLED to have found your website. I am a second year art teacher and was thrown a curve ball this year by having to travel to two different Elementary Schools. This website has been a tremendous help in getting me organized and ready for new tasks in a professional and exciting way. I am especially excited about your organization within your classroom, planning time, and Clay projects. YOUR AN INSPIRATION TO ME!!!

    • Beth,
      Thank you for your kind words- I am blushing over here! It’s such an amazing feeling to connect with like-minded folks, isn’t it! Thanks for stopping in and give me a whistle anytime!

  • I just found your site! Thank you so much for posting all that you have under classroom management and organization. I plan to implement many of your tips as this is my 2nd year teaching art to K-5 at homeschool co-op. (The 1st year was such a learning experience!)

    The art room is a fun place, but must have boundaries. Your help is exactly what I needed. Thank you for taking so many pictures.

  • Nikki,
    You are very welcome! I wish you the very best of luck!

  • Excellent weblog here! Additionally your web site loads up very fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate hyperlink on your host? I want my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  • krakowkp

    For me seeing lesson ideas inspire me….it is very rare that I do a lesson exactly from an idea I see online, but I do take some ideas and reinvent them for what I might need in my classroom. I like seeing materials (new and forgotten) used in ways that I have not thought of. Just a thought