Sources of A rt L esson Ideas
Preliminary ideas to bring on March 15/16, 2002, lab
Art 309: Art for Children, Spring, 2000
© Marvin Bartel, instructor - updated 3-13-2002
( see Calendar page ) for Field Teaching Dates

Judging Art Lessons Before planning Field Teaching Lessons, students are expected to study the contents of the appendix A below to review problems with art lessons typically found on the Internet and in published journals and books. Edit your lessons to remedy these problems.

Sample Bartel Lessons How to Plan Art Lessons
Try a search engine like Google and type in art lessons and see what comes up.

A P hilosophy of A rt E ducation
Teach artistic thinking, not merely the making of a product.  You lesson includes a product, but the goals are learning how to process ideas. Avoid or modify "CUTE" product-centered lessons. Your goals are to teach students how to problem find, to problem solve, how to think, how to plan, how to observe, how to produce visual stories, how to imagine, how to compose, how to design, and how to create.

Every art lesson is help the child become a more self-sufficient independent learner and to understand art better.  Emphasize the child's choice-making. Make the hard parts easier with practice.  Make the easy parts challenging with questions.  The good teacher's ultimate goal is to become unneeded as a teacher because the student has learned how to learn.

This page intended to familiarize you with some of the sources of inspiration for art assignments and projects. Secondly, it is intended to give you practice in converting ideas that may be out of date or inconsistent with current art education thinking into better lessons. We do not have to find good art lessons. We are simply looking for ideas. By following our own principles, we can make them into good art lessons.

A . Make a List of Art Lesson Ideas

  1. Think of art styles, topics, exemplars from history or other cultures, artists, purposes of art, processes, media, or any other important aspects of art to use as a starting point in your thinking about the lesson.  Do not start the lesson with examples, but you can get your teaching ideas from the examples you use at the end.
  2. Search to find published lesson plans or lesson plans observed in classrooms.
  3. Check the Art Section of the Goshen College Curriculum Library, lower level Good Library, south wing.
  4. Check periodicals such as School Arts , Arts and Activities , and Art Education
  5. Recall the best of your own experiences as a public, private, or home school student.  Change the lessons to make them fit our criteria .
  6. Consider things we have done in class this term. Modify them, if needed, to make them appropriate for the developmental level of the child.  See Blackboard for the Developmental Level lecture notes.  See chapter 2 in text.
  7. Interview teachers, art students, and children for lesson ideas.
  8. Try searching the Internet using and one other search engine.
B. How will your assignment be evaluated?
  • The quality of your revised lesson. The instructor will review your work to see if it follows the guidelines in Planning to Teach Art Lessons and other ideas developed in our class. See Appendix A below for a list of the most typical problems and some solutions. Innovative ideas are also valued.
  • See this link to see the Self-Evaluation .
  • An audio taping of the sessions is required.  Check your equipment in advance.  Video taping is optional.  You are asked to listen to the tape and cue up a small segment for us to hear.
  • The quality of your search. Are there a variety of sources properly documented so anybody could quickly find them? Is the annotation useful to a teacher looking for art lessons?
  • Others in your group will be asked to rank your contribution to the group effort. You will do the same for others.

Include three or more kinds of sources for art lesson ideas. Include books, curriculums or magazines, and Internet sites that contain one or more suggested art lessons. If you know an art teacher, an interview could also be one source. Use the library and our art education bibliography . Other books are in the Art Department in room 07. Books in 07 are to be used in the Visual Arts Building and returned to their shelf as soon as possible. Other materials are in the Curriculum Library in the library south basement.


PART A: Bring to class on March 15/16, 2002,  for group work.
List three or more lessons (from two or more types of sources) you find that have at least one idea in them that you think has possibilities of being a good lesson if it was modified correctly.

  1. Give a brief title and description
  2. Give the source so that anybody could quickly locate it
  3. Annotate each of the four lessons with two or three sentences saying what is good about it and what needs modification, but don't plan it out with modifications and corrections.
  4. Carefully study the web page called " Planning to Teach Art Lessons ".

In your group, discuss the lesson possibilities each of you finds. Make suggestions about the strengths and weaknesses of all the lessons your group finds.


For each of your four lessons, make a simple list of strengths and weaknesses.

For one of the lessons (the one you like best), develop a comprehensive revised and improved lesson plan or unit plan with all the parts of a good art lesson in the correct sequence (first things first and last things last). It is fine to make the lesson longer than you would teach at one session. Many lessons are extended over several sessions in order to include all the parts. In some cases lessons can have alternative ways of teaching them. For example, preliminary media preparation might be done several ways. Once you try it one way and another time you try it another way. It is fine to include several good options in any part of the lesson.


Again have other group members review the planning, read the first drafts and make suggestions to each other.

PART E: Turn in on March 21.

Prepare a final draft of the lesson plan. Turn it in with the preliminary drafts and list lessons you found in the first place. Be sure to document all the sources carefully so that another person could find them easily. Include page numbers of printed journals and books. Include URLs and sponsor names of web sites.
Using a copy of the Group Evaluation Form , fill it out, and turn it in with your final draft.

Appendix A
a. Many lessons say to show art examples, photos, or pictures before children do the art work. The sequence of lesson activities has the answers before the problem . The students are not truly expected to be capable of creating their own ideas or the teacher doesn't want to explain it well enough or take the time to have students do practice of preliminary planning and learning. Instead the lesson depends on the natural ability of children to learn by imitation. Who needs a teacher for this? Consider the 4 sources of inspiration for subject matter from Chapman. They are: 1) Nature and the constructed environment, 2) Inner feelings and imagination, 3) Quest for order, and 4) Ordinary experience (Chapman 46-52). When you take away the example art at the beginning of the lesson, it is important to replace it with better motivational activities so children know how you expect them to proceed. Take time to assign some practice work.  Build confidence. See number c. below. Teach art history after media work. Select art history based on elements, style, ideas, creative methods, etc. covered in media work. The library has a 30+ volume set of Encyclopedia of Art.
b. Some lesson plans suggest a food product as an art material.  What values does this teach about hunder, food, and waste?   Do we value the art experience enough to buy art materials?  Is food to treated as expendable? "Although potato, fruit, and vegetable prints are often recommended for children, the idea of food as an expendable for printmaking reflects a lack of concern about food in a world in which hunger is a serious problem" (Chapman 249) If non art material (food) is used, why not use actual art material if it works just as well. We should not apologize for spending some budget on art supplies. It is some of the best investment we can make in the children's learning. We spend our budgets on what we value. Food and other items are not free either.  Beautifully prepared food should be an aesthetic experience for dining together - not to hang on the wall.
c. They move directly to making the final product without teaching children how to develop their ideas, their compositions, or how to use the materials. Hence, little art is learned. They ignore thoughtful consideration of style, topic (subject) choice, function, design or composition, and/or art vocabulary learning. They might ignore skill development needs prior to the main product. Consider adding some warm up activities, some practice time with the materials, and some planning activities for the product being made. Avoid a mere demonstration by the teacher, but have your students actually using materials to gain confidence before you expect them to do the main work.  C onsider style, topic (subject) choice, function, design or composition, and/or art vocabulary learning.
d. They ignore art history learning opportunities. See a. above. Discuss at least one very important work after the media work. LesnIdea.html
e. Many lessons totally ignore art in society or art in everyday life connections. If children are to become aware of how the world is being designed by people, we need to make them more aware and sensitive about how things are becoming worse or better in our immediate surroundings. This is part of teaching aesthetics. We have laws against noise pollution, air pollution, and water pollution. Should their be more laws against polluting our viewscapes. Who benefits and who sacrifices with more and bigger billboards and power lines indiscriminately located? Who cares when the electrician places a light switch so that it makes hanging artwork on a wall more difficult? Everyday experiences can be an important as a source of topics from which to work.
Also, add some ideas about how this lesson can make us more aware of our environments. Include some relevant questions to ask the class. For example, when I think about juxtaposition of visual themes in surrealism, and apply this to the way campus buildings have been modified over the years, I become more aware of the impact of architectural space and design in my environment. Every school and neighborhood has some relatively ugly and some relatively beautiful environments. One of our goals is to help children develop sensitivity and aesthetic criteria by which to become more responsible citizens.
f. They use a teacher demonstration when a guided discovery method would work better to learn a process or concept. Most things can be taught without a teacher demonstration every student does a practice routine with the materials. Doing it is generally more effective than watching it. Art production is not a spectator activity. If you must demonstrate for safety or clarity, follow it immediately with hands on practice.
g. The procedure is inappropriate for the age. A common example of a process not recommended is finger-painting for kindergarten and lower grades. "Finger paint is of some value for the very young child who is seeking motor and kinesthetic pleasure. But it is not recommended as a major drawing or painting medium for children who have learned to make simple visual symbols, primarily because the kinesthetic and tactual appeal of finger paint overpowers the child's attention to its visual qualities." (Chapman 227) "If they are more concerned with the sticky consistency and smearing the paint all over than with using it for expression, then they are not using finger paint to satisfy the desire to control their kinesthetic movements. However, for tense, timid, or fearful children finger painting may provide an important outlet...." (Lowenfeld 106) There may be third grade and older children who really need an occasional freeing activity to change their increasing self-critical attitude. Something less controlled like fingerprint may be a good change of pace. Be sure that the curriculum also includes lessons with sound skill development. If every lesson is to "free the mind and feel good about yourself" and "getting rid of inhibitions," skills of observation, rendering, construction, and even thinking never develop beyond the schematic stage. Even those adults who feel they cannot draw, wish they could. More informed practice at a young enough age would have helped.
h. They produce a nice end product, but the learning objectives are unclear or the process fails to respect the child's creative potential. Avoid showing a pattern or example of the end product, but put lots of effort into being clear about the kind of thinking practice they will need to come up with an end product to take pride in. Use preliminary practice to build confidence and to clarify what it expected.  Students should make lists and/or sketches.  Group discussions can be used.
BIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES (these may be on reserve)
Chapman, Laura. Approaches to Art in Education. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1978.                            Lowenfeld, Viktor. Creative and Mental Growth . 4th ed. New York: The MacMillan Co. 1964.

All rights reserved. This page © Marvin Bartel, instructor, 2000
Goshen College Art for Children class members may print this for their own use. Others must e-mail Marvin Bartel for permission to reproduce or publish.

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