16 Free Lesson-Planning Resources for Art Teachers

16 Free Lesson-Planning Resources for Art Teachers

Written by:
Keith Contorno
Feb 17, 2020

The struggle of being an art teacher includes a unique blend of external doubt and internal friction. Art teachers share the same classroom and behavioral challenges that other elementary and secondary educators face while combating a similar stigma that troubles humanities departments across higher education–a skepticism about its value or worse, a presumption that its relative worth is low. Beliefs about art education’s value have lead to defunded programs, larger class sizes, and scheduling constraints. Free lesson-planning resources are particularly valuable to teachers with small budgets, tight time constraints, and little community support.

But beyond this more obvious list of challenges hides an unfortunate familiarity with psychological and ideological anguish. 

Instructors teaching math, science, and computer classes are exempt from the pressures that come with the unending task of proving arts’ impact to administrators and parents. Even disciplines in the humanities like English and social studies carry this privilege at the secondary and lower levels of education, as teaching reading, writing, and America’s founding narrative seem to hold unquestioned importance. For this reason, the art teacher often is isolated, especially when acting as the sole art educator at a school– a Remy in a rat school of scavenger instruction.

Feelings of aloneness are exacerbated by the ideological differences that inform the sides of the value debate. Often, art teachers feel that educators diminishing the status of art are participating in the same apparatus that is regulating society’s opposition toward values associated with art. Art teachers’ instincts are to interfere with such a discourse. Therefore, navigating the gap between personal beliefs and the school’s expectations is complicated by feelings of guilt and duty. 

With all of these daily strifes, easy and reliable help is particularly valuable. Spending less time on planning lessons frees up time and energy for mental wellness and extracurricular problem-solving. Art teachers, enjoy these 16 free lesson-planning resources. They are process-oriented, image-driven, and totally free.

1. National Gallery Of Art

The National Gallery of Art devotes a myriad of resources to art teachers and their students. The teacher page on NGA’s website provides free lesson plans that are organized by grade level. It also offers hi-res downloadable images of everything from portraits to classical paintings. With minimal funding, finding images and supplies to accompany lesson plans can be as difficult as the plans themselves. The NGA has you covered. Additional resources include links to borrow print and media as well as the NGAKids Art Zone. 

2. Teachers Pay Teachers

This marketplace is meant to be a space where educators can share resources, lessons, and expertise. While lessons are for sale from instructors, there are free lessons like this art history Van Gogh plan for kindergarten through third grade. You can search by subject and grade level to find what you need for your classroom. Its one of the best free lesson-planning resources. 

3. Mini Matisse 

Mrs. Hahn’s blog contains lessons for elementary and jr. high classrooms. It is a great site for those who are looking for more how and less what. Nearly all of the lessons contain videos that provide insight into her teaching process. 

4. Art Bar

Art Bar wants to raise creative thinkers. It’s a seemingly endless supply of printmaking, sculpting, painting, and other projects that use a diverse amount of mediums and materials. Their lessons range from mixed-media structures and flower portraits to artist studies of Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Klee. You also can subscribe to their weekly newsletter featuring new lessons.

5. Art Is Basic

The creator of this blog, Marcia, teaches elementary art and provides lessons for kindergarten through sixth grade. Her site is simple to navigate, allowing users to search by grade level or medium. The plans she provides are informational and thoughtful as she incorporates culture and contemporary art into her lessons. Her hybrid machine-animal drawings lesson is rad one for any sixth-grader. 

Utilize these free lesson-planning resources.

6. Art Made Easy

This is a podcast created by Patty Palmer that is dedicated to being a comprehensive resource for art educators. Her show ranges from episodes on guided drawings to engaging students with limited English to classroom cleanup strategies. While many of the episodes do focus on planning, the show is an all-around pedagogical force. Unfortunately, what isn’t in Patty’s podcast is limited to Deep Space Sparkle members. 

7. Teacher.org

What’s helpful about the art lesson plans at teacher.org–besides being free– is that they offer objectives and procedures that compare well with standards. Teachers will find lessons up through grade twelve, all high quality free lesson-planning resources.

8. The Virtual Instructor

The lessons on this site provide handy instruction for teaching drawing and painting techniques. The images and videos presented are fantastic tools, but finding lessons that aren’t behind the pay-wall can be a challenge.

 9. Arts & Activities

A&A has been assisting America’s art educators since 1932. Unfortunately, they haven’t published a new issue since June of 2019. However, their website provides digital back issues dating back to January 2016. Inside you can find lessons, tips, and other classroom resources. 

 10. Bethany Thiele

This art teacher’s YouTube channel contains an impressive amount of tutorials and projects for middle school art classes. Just a warning– if you start watching her videos, it might be a while before you do much else. 

Enjoy these free lesson-planning resources.

 11. Kinder Art

Here, you can search for lessons by medium, technique, or grade level. The multicultural art lessons and recycling-upcycling ideas are inspiring, but this building a Klimt lesson wins hearts. 

 12. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met’s offering of plans for educators are thorough and help you align with national standards. Their focus is on combining learning about works of classical and historical works of art with projects. 

 13. Art 21

One of the premier sources for art educators, Art 21 gives art teachers everything from strategies and resources to interactive prompts, discussion questions, and hands-on activities in their learning library. They also provide an orientation on teaching with contemporary art, with educators guides to go along with their videos. The thorough and diverse materials available on Art 21 make it one of the best free lesson-planning resources. 

 14. Arteascuola.com

This blog comes from a middle school art teacher, Miriam Paternoster, in Northern Italy. That’s right, Italy. It’s no wonder that she comes up with brilliant lessons like this one on colors and painting restoration.

 15. We-Make-Money-Not-Art

We-make-money-not-art is committed to demonstrating the ways that artwork intersects with other disciplines, like science and technology. While Régine Debatty’s website does not explicitly provide lesson plans to art teachers, it is a resource that highlights works of art and the ways that they interpret and ask questions about the world around us. It can be used to inspire similar projects in the classroom.

16. Cassie Stephens

Cassie Stephens is a great lesson planning source for elementary art teachers. Most of the posts on her blog detail the art elements in the lessons, how she teaches them, and the supplies that are needed. She also has a YouTube channel and a podcast, where she shares more projects and tips from her classroom. 

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Written by:
Keith Contorno
Feb 17, 2020

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