Art & Design

What to Look For in an Art Curriculum

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The world of online art curricula is vast and varied. On the one hand, you may be overwhelmed with all of the choices and have difficulty deciphering what distinguishes one over another. On the other hand, you may be frustrated because most of what you find caters to parents, homeschool settings, or informal art instruction. But where are the best curricula for K–12 art educators? We want you to understand your options. After combing through dozens of sites, we have done the research for you!

Read on for a roundup of four art education curriculum options.

pile of curriculum binders

What is a “complete” curriculum?

Before diving into the top art curriculums out there, let’s examine what constitutes a “complete” curriculum. A complete curriculum serves a wide range of students and includes resources beyond lesson plans. It is aligned to standards and is created, curated, and vetted by a group of experts in the field. A complete curriculum can not only enhance your students’ art experience but can also build a strong foundation for your art program.

When evaluating to see if a curriculum can work for you, look for these six things to ensure you will have everything you need:

  1. Scope and Sequences
    A map that shows all of the lessons and major ideas taught in a school year or for the duration of a course.
  2. Unit Plans
    A unit plan is an overarching organizational tool that groups lesson plans together, usually by theme.
  3. Lesson Plans
    Lesson plans include the following components: the time required, standards, objective(s), cross-curricular connections or areas of study, vocabulary, materials and supplies, instructional strategies, activity/project steps, differentiation and accommodations, resources, and assessment and reflection.
  4. Standards Alignment
    Standards can be state, local, and/or national. They reflect best practices and current thought in art education and are developed by experts. They ensure your lessons are on target and age-appropriate.
  5. Resources
    These can make the classroom experience come alive! They can include vocabulary lists, images, videos, websites, worksheets, planning sheets, reference sheets, artist biographies, and more.
  6. Assessments
    Formative assessment occurs during instruction and is ongoing. Summative assessment occurs at the end of instruction and is a one-time measurement. Both confirm that students are understanding and meeting the lesson objectives.

Download our 6 Parts of Effective Curriculum for a handy checklist to help you remember all six components as you search for curriculums or make your own. For more resources like this and a more in-depth look at what makes a strong curriculum, refer to our PRO Pack, The Building Blocks of Effective Curriculum.

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The following curriculums offer a range of components and comprehensive resources. Let’s take a closer look at what each one offers to determine which will best meet your needs.

FLEX

The Art of Education University’s FLEX Curriculum is a flexible  curriculum aligned to all 50 states’ visual art standards, including the NCAS. FLEX includes thousands of lesson plans, resources, videos, assessments, and artist bios that can be filtered and searched so you can find exactly what you need.

FLEX lesson plans include everything you need to get started immediately, including key objectives, teaching strategies, step-by-step instructions, and more. Lessons are categorized into flexible bands, Beginner (elementary), Intermediate (middle school), and Advanced (high school), so you can choose the lessons that best fit your students’ needs.

FLEX also comes with student-facing resources to support your teaching, including worksheets, reference materials, lists, graphic organizers, writing supports, and planning sheets. You can also choose from various formative and summative assessments, including reflections and critiques. Finally, help students connect to art concepts and diverse historical, contemporary, and living artists with FLEX videos and artist bios.

To help you make the most of FLEX, don’t miss the premade Scope and Sequences. Scope and Sequences are organized by grade level into units based on the NCAS to save you time. If you are someone who likes customization, the My Classes feature allows you to build your units and share them with other FLEX subscribers. FLEX is designed to integrate seamlessly with major learning management systems (LMS). FLEX even has units and lesson plans designed for substitutes!

FLEX Curriculum is regularly purchased for art teachers by districts and schools. Fill out this quick contact form, and we will connect you with someone who can help! If you want to purchase FLEX on your own, you can subscribe monthly with the ability to cancel anytime. Or, sign up for the annual membership to receive two months free.

The Art of Education University also offers many other supports to art teachers. PRO Learning is an on-demand PD platform broken down by topic into Packs. Each Pack has several tutorial and training videos as well as downloadable resources. It is the perfect compliment to FLEX. Don’t miss the free resources available in the online Magazine and on YouTube.

2. Art Class Curator’s SPARK Hybrid Learning Art Curriculum (K–12)

SPARK

Art Class Curator’s SPARK Hybrid Learning Art Curriculum is structured for middle and high school classrooms. Many lesson components are included. The lessons are organized in nine-week rotations to last an entire school year, and they are designed to work face-to-face or virtually. Each weekly presentation is structured in five parts to support your instruction: Curate, Discuss, Engage, Extend, and Reflect. Each art project focuses on ideas or artistic behaviors so that all resulting individual artworks are original. Projects are flexible and non-media-specific to allow teachers and students to use whatever materials they have on hand.

35 weekly units are centered around a work of art and include:

  • Art analysis activities and discussion guides
  • Creative engagement activities
  • A video about the artwork with worksheets
  • An art project based on an open-ended prompt
  • Reflection assignments

There is also a similar eight-week elementary curriculum available called SPARK Distance Learning Curriculum.

The Curated Connections Library offers editable, classroom-ready resources to make documents customizable. Further, all activities and assignments are designed to load into common learning management systems (LMS) easily.

Paid subscription options include two tiers of membership choices for the SPARK Hybrid Learning Art Curriculum. A paid membership to the Curated Connections Library provides four SPARKworks lessons per month. In the Shop, choose from single lesson resources, teaching units, or resource bundles. Art Class Curator offers free resources on their blog and Art Teacher Tips.

3. McGraw Hill Studio Space (6–12)

Studio Space

McGraw Hill Studio Space has created digital formats of their beloved hardcover curricula, Exploring Art for Grades 6–8 and Art Talk for Grades 9–12. The platform centers around a series of studio projects designed to expose students to the different elements of art and principles of design through standards-based lessons. Information is presented through activities, critical thinking questions, step-by-step project instructions, suggested readings, and the use of fine art reproductions via their eGallery. The studio art lesson plans consist of three components: Learn, Create, and Evaluate.

Studio Space integrates both teacher and student-facing components with a single sign-on portal. Teachers have many options with the portal. They can create assignments, communicate with students, and view student work. Teachers can upload lessons plans and content or edit and annotate ready-made presentations. Additionally, they can customize the provided scope and sequence. The student platform has interactive components where students can post work, give and receive feedback, and build digital portfolios. There is also an Explore option for students to browse images and artists individually.

McGraw Hill is a Google for Education Partner, so their program syncs with Google Classroom.

Subscription options are available per student on an annual basis. They also offer a six-year plan that breaks down to be a fraction of the annual price.

Davis

Davis Art is the parent publication for SchoolArts Magazine. Davis Digital is a K–12 curriculum that has both teacher and student-facing components that work for remote or hybrid learning. Components include ebooks (digital textbooks with both teacher and student editions), Davis Art Images, videos, and eportfolios. Davis Art Images has over 30,000 high-quality fine art images from leading museums. Search for the images you need to create collections and instant slideshows to enhance your lessons. ePortfolios are customizable so that work can be shared with families, community members, and colleagues. Teachers can also grade student work via eportfolio. Lesson plans can be customized with ebook content, easy-to-format text sections, fine art images, and more. Check out their platform overview for tips to incorporate these resources with hands-on work.

The Curriculum Builder feature allows teachers to store all of their content in one convenient place. Teachers organize their dashboard by class and then by lesson. Teachers can add pages from the ebooks, images from Davis Art Images, and even upload their own lesson documents. This includes embedding YouTube videos or premade presentations from SlideShare, Google Slides, or Prezi.

For teachers who would prefer to use something premade, Davis offers examples for each level, EL (elementary), MS (middle school), and HS (high school). The lessons include an Essential Question, Project Guidelines, Procedures, a link to the ebook lesson, a slideshow of art history images, and examples of student artwork.

This curriculum integrates with Clever and Classlink. Student accounts allow students to share work with peers and collaborate on Portfolios for group projects.

Get a one-year subscription to SchoolArts Magazine with each ebook class set purchase. Davis Art also has many free resources for art teachers.

curriculum page in binder

Make your life easier!

Online art curricula subscriptions are an excellent option to guide or enhance the scope and sequence of your instruction. With so many curricula options at your fingertips, it’s essential to understand which one will best meet the goals and standards your district requires. Likewise, platform compatibility and user-friendliness are vital to consider before investing in a subscription. Using an online art curriculum can make your life easier, so be sure to take advantage of the four overviews above to help you select the best option for your practice.

What components do you look for in an art education curriculum?

How do you guide or enhance your scope and sequence?



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