Middle School Curriculum Planning and Sketchbook Unit

Deep Thought by Christy Berry

Deep Thought by Christy Berry

I have been working on developing an art curriculum for my middle school students.  I took on a new position last November at the middle school.  They have not had an art teacher in the middle school for over ten years.  So there is no art curriculum.  I love developing curriculum so this is right up my alley.

First I looked at what my students need to know at their grade level based on the State Benchmarks and Standards.  I know these will change, so I will adjust the lessons next year.  I need something for my long term sub this fall when I go on maternity leave and for the next year until the new standards arrive.  Our state has rejected Common Core, but I still look at it and add it into my lessons.  The state gave schools a choice of using it or not.  However, at this time the state will not fund it.

Next, I looked vertically at what my seventh and eighth grade students need to know.  I also take into consideration what the high school students need to know for their design class (foundational art class).  I also spoke with the elementary teacher to determine what my students have been exposed to and what have they learned.

After gathering all of this background information I look at the big picture of what I want my students to get out of my class.  I have come to the conclusion that I want my middle school students to have a strong background in their knowledge of art vocabulary (elements of art and principles of design), How to use a variety of media, think creativity/problem solve, make connections, and to have fun.

Part of the final for each of my middle school students is the same every year.  I can do this because it really is different every year.  Let me explain.  Students need to take at least one element of art, and one principle of design and create art.  They can use any media that we learned about during the semester.  The big kicker is that they need to explain how and why they did what they did along with presenting this to the class.  It is a bit crazy during the final week because I have 20-30 different projects all happening at the

same time.  But, this project usually turns out to be the students’ favorite project.


Christy Berry’s Example of Places

As part of my planning for my sixth grade group I have developed a sketchbook assignment unit that will give them the practice to have a successful final project.  I have the full lesson for sale at TeachersPayTeacher. Here is a description of the unit:

This unit includes six different homework sketchbook assignments geared toward having sixth grade students think about big ideas.  Students will use new ideas to employ inventiveness and innovation, demonstrate reflective thinking, and create preliminaries and possibilities.  The unit includes a Common Core Standard, three sixth grade Michigan Visual Art Benchmarks and Standards, assessment, lesson plan, six teacher examples, and a student rubric.

The big ideas include:

  • Places
  • People
  • Objects
  • Ideas
  • Thoughts
  • Feeling

What I like about this lesson is that students are using the same process as in writing; just this is a bit more visual. I also like the fact that students get to choose the content around the big idea.

If you have any questions or comments about my unit, please leave them below.


Mrs. Berry


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jody Daniels
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 07:19:59

    I think you have pretty much nailed this one. I teach Middle School 7th and 8th grade, and what I have found is that my students lack element of Art understanding before they get to me and that they need Principles of Design before they leave me, so my focus for them especially in 7th grade is Elements, and then we touch on Principles in multiple ways during 8th grade classes. Your description of your classroom doing 20 – 30 different projects all at once, is what I do in almost all of my classes. This enables students to use Multiple Intelligence Thinking Strategies and you will find that student outcomes are more personal. Nice post!


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