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Response to NAEA Webinar: Contemporary Lesson Planning

My intention in teaching art was always to make myself happy as well as my students. It is because unless a teacher truly enjoys the class, so do students. In terms of that, thinking about yourself in the classroom and thinking about whether being a magician makes you pleasant or not, the answer would actually not. To manipulate students to produce nice but repeated cookie-cutter products without concerning their working process would result in all-the-same artworks hanging on the wall and that would be all, anything happened. No pleasure. Definitely, an art teacher should not be like a magician but have a great deal of creative role to let students engage creatively in the class to give them authenticity (Hathaway, 2013, p.11).

To organize a good art class, lesson planning is needed to set a comprehensive environment for the class so as to give the magic wand to students. The webinar, Contemporary Lesson Planning (National Art Education Association [NAEA], 2023) demonstrates how to construct an effective and creative lesson plan by introducing six seasoned teachers’ strategies, reflecting their own valuable insights to help organize a creative unit and lesson plan. I will briefly summarize the webinar focusing on fundamental principles to consider when a teacher sets a unit and lesson plan.

First and foremost, you should take care of the standards that reflect national, state, and sometimes local needs, which can be simplified to the big idea. A big idea refers to a universal and timeless concept that delivers a broad and discrete explanation of the topic (Baxter, 2019, The Art Project section, para. 8). These needs become objectives that develop into the content, material, teaching method, and assessment. Given those standards, big ideas, objectives, and the school and district curriculum, you can draft a unit and lesson plan. A unit is a broader concept having key concepts and essential ideas; a lesson is an individual class in the unit, that is, a unit has several lessons that help to achieve a unit objective. The architecture of unit and lesson plans consists of distinct parts that can be broken down into small parts. Here, the teacher’s role will devise each element and put them together into an organized plan.

In the webinar, all six presenters introduced their unique strategies to plan a lesson (NAEA, 2023). I was inspired by Leigh Drake’s creative projects making steampunk insects with fourth and fifth graders, Ashley Gonzalez’s fish mural project conducted with elementary students, teachers, and parents, and Ryan Twentey’s systematic approach to designing specific unit and lesson plans. Among these vibrant strategies, the approach that fits my interest was a choice-based art program, introduced by Alison Keener (the fourth presenter). She designs lesson plans based on the TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) approach. TAB is based on the concept “The child is the artist,” and regards the teacher as a “facilitator.” They regard class as an art studio and try to organize the class setting similar to that of artists. In the studio-learning environment, students are encouraged to be problem-finders rather than problem-solvers. It helps students be more authenticated and motivated, that is, “having their magic wand on their hand” (Hathaway, 2013, p. 13). The interesting point was she used “bootcamps” to hone her curriculum. She uses the strategy of “Perceptual lesson planning” (Baxter, 2019, Introduction section, para. 11) to develop her lesson plan, in which teachers utilize visual elements such as doodle or post-it to show and organize their inspirations regarding the art lesson plan. By using visualization, she effectively initiated and developed the lesson idea for the real class. Furthermore, Keener’s usage of objective writing supplements to give structure to her TAB lesson helped to overcome the lack of structure, often criticized as a limitation of TAB.

When thinking about the practical application of those strategies in an elementary school setting, Ryan Twentey’s structural approach can be helpful. As Baxter (2019) put it, context determines content of art classes (Vibrant Communities section, para. 4). That is, you should keep in mind primarily what students and what community area you are going to teach, since people taking art class might have various goals, concerns, and expectations and you should adjust your lesson to fit their needs.

Lesson plans are so trivialized that often regarded as simply filling in templates that already exist (Baxter, 2019, Introduction session, para. 7). In fact, however, designing a lesson plan is a creative activity that offers time and place for teachers to show their passion and the purpose of the lesson, which can result in a satisfactory art class. Consequently, to overcome the endangered art education which become marginalized as just luxury (Marshall, Stewart, & Thulson, 2021, Introduction section, para. 15), it will be important for art teachers to let go of ready-made curriculum, to invite the contemporary art making process to the classroom, and finally, to realize they play a crucial role on the creative growth of the students.


Baxter, K. (2019). Creating Vibrant Art Lesson Plans: A Teacher’s Sketchbook. Teachers College Press.

Hathaway, N. E. (2013). Smoke and Mirrors: Art Teacher as Magician. Art Education, 66:3, 9-15.

Marshall, J., Stewart, C., & Thulson, A. (2021). Teaching Contemporary Art with Young People: Themes in Art for K-12 Classrooms. Teachers College Press.

National Art Education Association. (2023, August 9). Contemporary Lesson Planning. Virtual Art Educators.

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