This article is compliments of The Art of Education.
When you have the chance to design your own curriculum, it’s easy to get stuck. There’s just so much you could include, but what should you include? Of course, that “should” depends on your teaching philosophy and your student population. No matter which direction you go, it can be nice to have a concrete example. That’s why, today, I’m sharing the entire curriculum for my Visual Arts course.
This year-long course is mandatory for all sophomores at my school, many of whom have never previously taken art. It aims to build on their rookie skills while simultaneously developing their capacity to make their own artistic choices by tapping into their interests.
Below you’ll see all 6 units broken into 3 different categories: the materials you’ll need, the scaffolding exercises students do to build skills, and the more involved summative assessment assignment that asks students to put together everything they’ve learned. I hope you find it helpful!
A Sample Visual Arts Curriculum Map
Unit 1: Graffiti-Inspired Design
- Dry-erase board lettering experiments
Students practice different kinds of graffiti lettering and font styles on dry-erase boards. The low-pressure materials allow for lots of practice and encourage student experimentation.
- Graffiti Alphabet
Students design each letter using a different technique or artistic concept being studied (warm/cool/neutral colors, complementary colors, one-point perspective, overlapping, and gradation).
- One Word and One Image Design
This is a formative assignment where students choose one word that reflects some aspect of identity. They design that word and combine it with a drawn and colored image, using artistic conventions studied.
Summative Assessment: Code Name Design
The Code Name assignment asks students to invent and design a name that represents some aspect of their identity. Along with the design of that name, students are required to implement a symbolic image and a visual metaphor to reflect who they are. The artist statement that follows engages students to explain the meaning behind their name and artistic choices.
Unit 2: Painting
- Acrylic Paint (Red, Yellow, Blue, Magenta, White, Red Oxide, Yellow Oxide)
- Cups for Water
- Palette Knives
- Palettes (cardboard works well)
- Cardboard or other painting surface
- Value Scales
Using white on one side and a formula of 4 parts blue, 2 parts red, and one part yellow to make the darkest value on the other, students must paint a value scale.
- Analogous Color Value Scales
After choosing three analogous colors, students create value scales of between 5 and 9 values for each color in their analogous scheme.
- Painting an Orange
Students draw and paint an orange noticing the light and shadow and building upon their value scale lessons. Photocopies work best for reference materials so students can use them from class to class.
- Painting an Orange II
This assignment is the same as the previous except students are asked to paint the background first and move into the foreground last.
- Painting an Apple
Students draw an apple and paint it in, including the background. Photocopies work best for reference materials so students can use them from class to class.
- Painting a Flower
Students draw and paint a flower. Photocopies work best for reference materials so students can use them from class to class.
Summative Assessment: Painting with a Purpose
Students create a painting on a piece of cardboard that expresses some sort of message. The message can be of any kind, such as personal, serious, humorous, or political. Students are required to implement a painted frame of some kind into their piece, as well as symbolic imagery. Words are optional. Students must also apply at least three artistic conventions studied over the year.
Unit 3: Create a Cartoon Character
- Cartoon Character Mash-Up
Using a cartoon characteristic face guide, students practice drawing various characters using different styles of facial features.
Summative Assessment: Create a Cartoon Character
Students create a new cartoon character. The character can be based off existing characters, but must be altered significantly to be an original creation. Students must use paint for at least half of the piece and can choose to use colored pencils and markers for the other half. I also ask students to create a 30-second story for their character that they present in front of the class.