Over the past 16 years of teaching I have built 4 successful art programs from scratch. This year I have noticed a lot of new art teachers asking about pacing guides and how to organize their lessons. I know that I really struggled with this when I first started teaching and feel that I’ve definitely improved as I have searched for ways to be more organized rather than reinventing the wheel each year. I have also learned more about digital planning which has also inspired me to be more organized in my planning.

I hope that I can be of some help in your journey.

Building your calendar

At the beginning of the year, or actually the end of the year, I would always start by creating a dynamic calendar of the whole year. I typically work in Google Sheets but this can be done on any spreadsheet software. I learned how to make this from YouTube tutorial . Once I had created my calendar I would then sort out the year into weeks. I liked organizing all the months into one sheet so that I could see them all at a glance. I also organize them into a vertical sheet so that I can stack them and be able to add important dates.

I also will add in by spreadsheet of artists birthdays so I can glance at them over the year.

Planning your Grade level Units

Finally, I add in the grade levels that I will be teaching. Now I am ready to plan out my units. This can be either by your themes or media. When I was working in a IB PYP school I would plan my lessons within the Units of Inquiry.

This is also a great time to add any important dates for the week or month.

Grade Level Planning: Learning Outcomes

The next step of my process is to begin looking at mapping out each grade level. Starting with the Overall Expectations of what I want to focus on with each grade level, for example in Kindergarten, I want Learners show an understanding that ideas, feelings and experiences can be communicated through arts; and, recognize that their own art practices and artwork may be different from others. This will differ from grade 4 Learners. Expectations for creating and responding will be more in depth such as: the concept of being an audience of different art forms and displaying awareness of sharing art with others; and, they are able to interpret and respond to different art forms, including their own work and that of others. These overall expectations come from the IB PYP Arts Scope and Sequence.

Once I’ve established my expectations, I can then divide up my Conceptual Understandings. I like to look at these as benchmarks for where I think the students are starting and then where I want them to end up. I divide this up over they course of the year. This will look different if you are teaching 9 weeks or semesters but is the same idea. The conceptual understandings should be more specific than the overall expectations. This is also the time when I divide up the Learning Outcomes. I split these up over the course of the year or term as well. I know that we are often explicitly teaching many of these learning outcomes or standards all year or term but this allows me to focus on only a couple at a time.

Once all of this is set up and established for each grade level then it can be revisited each year thereafter just to tweak and adjust it as needed.

Planning Art experiences

When I start to plan my art learning experiences I always begin with things that I enjoy doing. My favorite lessons are painting, printmaking, bookmaking, collage/mixed media, and ceramics or some other sculpture 3D artwork. I try to plan it out so that not everyone is painting or doing ceramics at the same time because storage is usually an issue for most art rooms. The Elements and Principles of Art and Design can really be plugged in anywhere and are visited throughout the year. I also like to start with some mixed media to be able incorporate lots of little skills and experiences. Finally I like to look at the unit theme to think about the artists who fit well with what I am doing. I’ve organized a few Playlists on YouTube based on Unit Themes as well as a Pinterest board that have artists, articles, websites, and blogs related to the Central Idea, Learner Profiles, or Concepts.

Once I start gathering artists, books, visuals and other ideas that might work with the unit I compile them in a Google Slide. This or some other presentation platform is great because you can add pictures, shapes, and clip art and link them to videos that I have created or collected. I also use the file to create any problem solving strategies that I’ve created for learners to use in the unit. The Google slide can also be linked to the digital planner so that it is easier to access for next year.

Assessment and documentation

I also like using Google Slides because you can add photos from your iPad or phone with the Google Slides App directly to the slide presentation and annotate them in real time. Later you can go back and add comments for future reference.

Sample Unit Planner

I have heard that creating and looking at a whole grade level planner can be overwhelming so I typically will start with planning out a unit like this. The template helps to guide me through my unit planning process. After I have the unit planned out I can start filling in different parts of the overall planner.

Plugging in the Planner

Another way to organize your planner and the units within the year is to outline it vertically. This is helpful to see it across the entire year. I will use this planner to help me see when any events occur throughout the year such as holidays and assemblies. I typically will fill those out and then make a copy for each grade level I teach before adding the units and then lessons.

Finally I can add all of this to a planner with all of my classes and schedule. What’s great about working like this is that I can include hyperlinks to create a smoother work flow.

Conect with me

I would love to hear thoughts and ideas about your planning process.

About the blog

Loose Crayons is a blog from Beckie Dobbs about Art Education and Integration. Don’t forget to follow me on:


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