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Instructional Unit Samples - Visual Arts
Below are the teacher-authored instructional unit samples for Visual Arts. Each of these units represents the work of a team of Colorado educators to translate one curriculum overview sample into a full instructional unit with learning experiences, teacher and student resources, assessment ideas, and differentiation options. To learn more about the unit development process and the unique aspects of the arts units, please consider watching one or more of the instructional unit webinars.
Each of the units posted here was authored by a team of Colorado educators. As examples, they are intended to provide support (or conversation/creation starting points) for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students.
You can also view the complete list of Visual Arts curriculum overview samples and use the instructional unit templates to begin constructing your own Colorado Academic Standards-based units.
Unit Title: Abstraction as Interpretation (Colorado Springs School District, Woodland Park School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students engage in the process of abstracting an idea, place, figure, and/or object to explore how the laws and rules of visual art can influence or change compositional choices. Students analyze the compositional styles of modern and contemporary abstract artists; developing their own process for reconstructing the world around them as they experiment with the expressive features and characteristics of art to determine compositional design and create meaning. The unit culminates in the creation of an art show.
Unit Title: The Cultural Impact of Color (Poudre School District)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore their own heritage/ culture and the ways that color can impact a piece of artwork. Students will gain an understanding of how artists use color and expressive characteristics and expressive features such as culture, expression/emotion, tradition, style, investigate, relationships/ interaction, inspiration, tension/conflict, intent in their own artwork.
Unit Title: Drawing Illusion: Personal Place Perspective (Pueblo County School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students will engage in the process of drawing using formulas and conventions to accurately render space on a two-dimensional plane. Students will create a visual illusion of a cityscape by using the characteristics and expressive features of art in perspective drawings. The unit culminates in the creation of an individual artwork of a futuristic cityscape. Students will analyze the relationship between historical and contemporary art pieces to provide insight into approaches to rendering depth and space and when and where art was created.
Unit Title: Identity and World Cultures (Poudre School District)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore the ways that art can reveal individual and cultural values and beliefs, as well as challenge those values and beliefs. Students will gain an understanding of how artists employ expressive features and characteristics of art such as composition, juxtaposition, and relationship of elements to direct the viewer and/or add emphasis to what they are communicating about identity.
Unit Title: Not Your Grandmother's Art: Aarrrgh...It's Parroty! (Poudre School District)
Unit Description: This unit is intended to explore artist’s use of humor to challenge and transform individual, societal, and cultural beliefs. Students will discuss what they find humorous and how humor is used in society. Students will look at historical and contemporary examples of artists who use humor to challenge and/or alter culturally pervasive symbols, values and beliefs. The unit culminates with students creating their own artwork that presents a serious or silly recent local or national event using humor including satire, irony, parody and/or sarcasm.
Unit Title: Observational Drawing: Still Life Self Portrait (Colorado State University and Poudre School District)
Unit Description: This observational drawing unit gives students the opportunity to explore the concept of consumerism and its relevance in their lives. Students will learn about/research contemporary artists inspire by consumerism and use these artists/works as inspiration for their own work of two-dimensional work of art. This unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to produce a final drawing that shares their views of consumerism.
Unit Title: Tension, Conflict, and Transformation (Poudre School District)
Unit Description: This unit engages students in the process of working in three dimensions, spatial transformation, and the process of challenging the viewer’s perceptions about space and environment. Students analyze, compare and contrast 3D art forms in relation to environment with consideration of perception, feeling, content, and purpose through learning about installation artist and ultimately creating their own 3D installation piece.
Unit Title: Wabi-Sabi: The Beauty of Things Imperfect (Poudre School District)
Unit Description: In this unit students explore the concepts of personal artworks and the relationship between tradition and artmaking. Students will explore artists known for using cultural, societal, historical, and/or personal traditions as inspiration for their artwork. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that requires students to produce a final work of three-dimensional art that highlights or challenges the meaning of tradition.
Unit Title: Bottle Caps to Old Shoes (Delta County School District, Falcon School District, Platte Canyon School District, Cherry Creek School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore written and visual metaphor used by artists to create meaning in works of art. Examining a variety of assemblage and found object three-dimensional artists, students will transform and manipulate discarded materials and found objects to communicate a specific idea/concept for an audience. The unit asks students to make connections between linguistic transformations (e.g., the creation of metaphor, analogy, slang, colloquialisms, etc) that assign/represent new meanings for words or phrases to the way in which some artists use objects (ordinary, found, discarded) in new and unique ways. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to transform every-day and/or discarded (school/classroom) items into an art work that assigns new meanings to these materials.
Unit Title: Ways of Seeing: The Power of Visual Literacy - Urban Art Focus (Denver Public School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students explore the concepts of street art, as well as discuss the various societal perceptions of street art and why perceptions vary. Students explore street art, including street artists, various terms associated with street art, and visual literacy/culture. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to collaboratively develop, propose, fund, and execute a public expression of art.
Unit Title: Ways of Seeing: The Power of Visual Literacy - Advertising Focus (Colorado Springs School District, Woodland Park School District, St. Vrain School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit the students will explore advertising in popular culture and how “truth” can be manipulated by cultural image-makers. The students will begin by learning the history of Pop Art and moving to the study and analysis of advertisements and cultural icons. Students will become familiar with various stages of putting an Ad or package design, label together (graphic design systems). Students will be naming a product, creating logos, slogans/jingles, graphic mascots and studying the art of typography. Understanding and planning how all the pieces create a whole and how the process of art making can be applied to commercial art. Expressive features and characteristics of art and metaphor are key elements throughout this unit. The unit culminates in a final project in which students design a 2-D advertisement.
Unit Title: Personal Geographies (Poudre School District, St. Vrain School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students explore the concepts of personal artwork such as self-portraiture and its use to share personal messages and/or ideas. Students will explore artists known for their use of personal subject matter and determine their own messages based upon research of their family culture, traditions, environmental influences etc. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to produce a final personal geographic artwork that shares a personal message and aspirations for their future.
Unit Title: Pop Culture and Art (Pueblo County School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore symbols, cultural meaning, juxtaposition, re-contextualization, and cultural value through the lens of Pop Art. Students will begin by researching and studying the historical context and influence of Pop Art and move into a focus on the transformation of cultural meaning using symbols and everyday objects in new an inventive ways. Across the unit, students will explore the roles of color, language, irony, etc. in seminal works of Pop Art and experiment with creating their own Pop Art commentaries. The unit culminates with the students creating an artistic expression/commentary on a relevant school/community issue.
Unit Title: Arriving at Abstraction (Thompson School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: This unit is an introduction to the origins, creation, and subject/content of abstract art. Over the course of this unit, students will examine the varying styles, techniques and inspirations for creating abstract art. Students will specifically consider how emotions and distortion of expressive features influence composition. To further contextualize this exploration, students will explore how musical rhythm can translate to visual rhythm and compare the ways in which musicians and visual artists express emotion through abstraction. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a logo/visual identity for a music company that works with focuses on many different genres of music.
Unit Title: Reflecting Identity through Art (Colorado Springs School District, Woodland Park School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore the elements of culture and tradition through mask-making and historical research. Students will be asked to reflect upon their own cultural identity and/or traditions through researching various cultures and their art making heritage. Students will analyze how individuals and communities express their cultural identity through works of art (specifically masks); both their own and others. The unit culminates in a performances assessment that asks students to critically analyze and categorize cultural artifacts (masks).
Unit Title: Reflecting Culture through Art - Personal Maps (Adams 12 Five Star School District, Colorado Springs School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will connect the elements of personal culture and tradition through self-portraiture and map rendering. Students will be asked to reflect upon their own cultural identity and/or traditions through researching geographical elements and discussion of the influence of geography on personal identity. Students will analyze how individuals and communities express their cultural identity through works of art. This unit culminates in a final project asking students to tell their own personal story through a “Self Portrait as Map” final artwork.
Unit Title: Architecture (Adams-Arapahoe School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: This is a third grade art unit focusing on Architecture. It explores shapes and forms in architecture and encourages students to think critically about the connections between architecture and the human experience (safety, practicality, aesthetics) as well as architecture and environment. Students will begin by identifying the expressive features—such as space, line, shape and form—found in architecture and use them to create a collage. Then students synthesize the information they know about architecture to create a specialized home reflecting the specialized needs of a specific community or individual; both in a 2D sketch and a finalized 3D model. Students will reflect upon their learning in a class presentation of the model home and a letter describing the new home’s specialized features.
Unit Title: Reflecting on Community Experiences (Harrison School District, Roaring Fork School District, Pueblo City School District, and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit the students will explore place, space, architecture, city planning and mapping through the experience of community. Student will begin by studying their surroundings and eventually consider how communities, as a whole, are planned and created. Planning and understanding art making as a process are common to each learning experience. Expressive features and characteristic of art, symbols, and mixing media are also key elements in the unit. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to work collaboratively to design and map out a new community.
Unit Title: Passports (Denver Public School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit the students are introduced to the approaches artists use for inspiration and how they organize their ideas to aid in the creation of art work. Specifically, students will investigate concept mapping as they explore subject matter across cultures—both historical and contemporary. Across the unit, students will explore the creative process and the roles of inspiration and structure play in helping artists develop, capture and achieve their artistic goals/vision. The unit culminates with a performance assessment that asks students to consider their families and/or communities as sources of inspiration for the creation of a series of art works about their lives/experiences.
Integrated Unit Title: Shape Detectives (Thompson School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on recognizing, naming, and using geometric shapes.
Unit Title: What do I See? (Adams Five Star School District and Colorado State University)
Unit Description: In this unit, kindergartners will creatively experiment with art tools and materials in a safe and appropriate manner, while building a portfolio of personal art work from the students’ point of view (from imagination and observation). The portfolio should reflect growth and learning as artists and creative thinkers. Students will look at picture books to consider how artists express ideas. This unit will culminate in the students creating their own class book expressing their own artistic creativity.
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