History, Inspiration, and How-To: Teaching Art in a Multi-Grade Classroom


Rebecca hoped to train her students in art technique while introducing them to art history and concepts—but she didn’t want to create every lesson from scratch. In this video, she talks about the way she incorporates ARTiculations curriculum across the grades, and describes rules that enable art classes to be peaceful and productive.

Class: The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

I was going to teach art class this year and have three different levels, 1 to 4, 5 through 8, and 9 through 12. I wanted to be able to give my students lessons that are more than just crafts or coloring or cutting and pasting, even painting and such. I wanted to integrate learning about artists, their work, and art history, and lots of art vocabulary. I also wanted to integrate the elements and principles of art, make them common vocabulary that they know; when we’re talking about line, well, different artists have used the line in this way or such.

This seemed like a lot of work to me because you have a lot of teacher-intensive [work] and you need to study and study artists and pull lessons together on top of getting all your supplies together.

I heard that Hannah Nolt is putting out a curriculum and I was very excited about it. She offers a lot of different mediums, lots of artists, art vocabulary elements and principles, and such like in her lessons and it’s done for you. Her lessons are set up with three weeks. I have taken four weeks, maybe five weeks on some of the lessons because of how it is difficult, but I’m really, really enjoying it for my students, and they’re really enjoying it.

The lesson is—each packet comes in the mail. The beginning… so it has an artist focus and it also has your project. In the middle, which is really nice, she has a poster for the artist, she has the artist, and a few of their pieces that you’re going to be looking at and studying. On the back, she has the steps of the project for your students. Day one, you’re doing the drawing and the tracing. Day two, you’re doing painting shoes with watercolor, and you’re doing the background pieces. Day three, you’re putting it all together. She has it sketched out nicely there for you.

At the beginning of class each time, I try to do talking about their artist and what we’re looking at. I do a little bit of lecture time, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of a lecture time where I’m giving instruction, teaching new vocabulary, teaching the artist, telling how the project is going to go. During that time, I try to keep the room quiet. The students need to raise their hands if they want to talk, just like you would do your normal classroom.

Then when they’re set to work on their projects, I try to turn some music on. It keeps it quieter. I ask that students are only whispering with the other students. That way you’re not getting the obnoxious talk and the loudness that you can often get in art classes. It usually gives a pretty good environment of whispering quiet. They can still raise their hands if they need me to come without… being like, “Miss Rebecca, Miss Rebecca” from every angle of the classroom. That can be frustrating because that’s the last thing I want when I’m trying to keep track of 12 paint palettes at the same time.

I use the ARTiculations curriculum into my classrooms. Because of cost, I wanted to just get two levels for my students. I also wanted to have a high school art. ARTiculations doesn’t currently offer a high school art curriculum, so I decided I’m going to go with level two for my first through eighth graders. They didn’t have much exposure to art before and I figured level two, which is the third and fourth grade, will be okay for them. I was really happy when I got the first issue and noticed that I had chosen, I guess, wisely, you could say, because it felt like it was something that was going to stretch even my eighth graders, and I could tone it down a little bit for my third and fourth graders.

You have three weeks of lesson plans set and good for you to go. This makes it really nice because, originally, your lesson is a lot of work to figure out what you’re doing for three weeks of art. Once you have it figured out the first week, day two and day three, the second week and the third week are a lot easier to run with it.

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