i am a big fan of thematic instructional units. i love them because i feel
they enable me to cover a diversity of topics in a coherent, cohesive
manner. my students fill out evaluations of our art class regularly and
the vast majority indicate they, too, like thematic units. they say it
helps them understand and remember what we have done when all the projects
have a prestated commonality (yeah, ok, those are my words, but that's what
i teach middle school art and am presently using the following unit themes
(i change): dragons, modern art, mostly green (plants, etc), faces and
figures, wild things (animals/creatures), architecture, and art with
each unit is about nine weeks long. we have in class projects which i
structure somewhat around dbae principles of aesthetics, history,
criticism, and studio work. we also have a weekly home work assignment
which relates to or prepares for what we are doing in class. we use the
internet for a resource a lot.
for example, the wild things unit includes projects on haida and tlingit
art from the pacific northwest (usa and canada) with emphasis on legends;
aboriginal dot painting from australia (more stories and listening to
didgereedoo!); origami and paper sculpture comparing and combining eastern
and western sensibilities; sumi-e painting, calligraphy and haiku studying
the native flora and fauna of china and japan; oaxacan animalitos from
sculpey polymer clay; gyotaku printing NOT in which my students have to
come up with an alternative to animal (fish)printing 'cause i can't take
it, but still think its really neat-o; fauvist paintings a la franz marc;
and found object constructions a la butterworth.
it is my agenda to do a variety of projects in the hope that students will
find at least one in which they are abundantly successful and interested,
to present art in many forms from a myriad of peoples, times, places, to
try different media and techniques, and to connect art with learning in
other areas of school and life, to make my students think and go "wow!".
to me, themes are ideal for this.
i would love to share more of my units with those interested. i can give
more detailed info, resources lists, etc. i would also love to hear about
others who use units and what they're like. i promise, cross my heart,
not to send my units to the whole list, or i shall accept a fate worse than
green hair ;D.