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  • Writer's pictureJason Blair

2014 Grade Level Focus

Grade Level Focus

In art, each grade level has a different focus throughout the course of their five years at my school. Each focus combines grade level standards, with child development to ensure deep understanding of complex ideas. Each focus provides an over arching umbrella that covers all projects throughout the year. Having a large focus over a period of a year, empowers the students to dig deeper into the creative process and enables them to make personal connections to material being taught. By the end of the five year program, each student has a better sense of themselves, others, and how they and others use visual art as a means of expressive visual communication.


The students in first grade focus on relationships and connections in art throughout the year. Relationships and connections are important at this stage of development. These students are becoming more self-aware and learning about interacting with others. It helps foster a foundation of empathy,compassion and respect for others. This focus also enables the students to see the relationship between materials and concepts as well. Each lesson throughout the year will be related in some way to the idea of relationships. This focus also prepares the students for later years when more abstract thinking is expected and identification of patterns and connections becomes essential for both making and viewing visual images.

example lessons from the past:

Relationships between kids and toys

Relationships with friends

Relationships choices


The students in second grade transition from a focus on relationships, to now applying this knowledge to create a community where everyone is working together, respecting differences and utilizing their strengths. Throughout the year, these students will be viewing, discussing and creating works of art that deal with community. Second grade students welcome responsibility and can grasp the idea of working as a group to accomplish a task. This year long focus allows the students the opportunity to further understand the relationship between an artist and his/her community.

example lessons from the past:

Invent a new community

How do communities shape boys and girls?

Why do we have rules in communities?


The students in third grade will transition from a community focus to communication. At this point the students have a solid understanding of who they are, how they relate to others, and how they can work as a team to accomplish a goal. This stage now focuses on how to visually communicate, clearly and effectively as both an individual and collaboratively. The previous two years promoted self awareness, empathy and compassion. In order to communicate effectively you have to have a solid understanding of the target audience. This focus allows the students to use all that they have learned about themselves and others and begin to focus on how best to communicate an idea and/or concept, solve a problem, and ask clear and concise questions to further and deepen the learning process.

example lessons from the past:

What/how/why do the spaces we live in communicate?

How can you persuade someone using visual art as a form of communication?


The students in fourth grade become increasingly aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They tend to compare their work to others at this stage more than ever. Fourth grade students become more self-conscience as well. Taking this into account, this focus empowers the students to be more introspective and confident in themselves and the creative process. This focus helps the students understand how identity is reflected in the artistic process. By looking at artifacts from our visual culture, this focus also helps the students to understand how these artifacts affect the identity formation process. The purpose of this focus is for the students to reflect on who they are and how to create visual artifacts that reflect their attitudes, beliefs and/or traditions. Self-awareness is essential to effective leadership.

example lessons from the past:

Who am I, Who are you and what does it mean?

What if I….?

How do I understand others?

What does empathy look like?


The fifth grade students focus on leadership for the final stage of the art program. This focus utilizes all prior knowledge from the previous years to become leaders. As fifth grade students, these individuals are seen as the leaders of the school. This focus features the work of artists and designers that are viewed as leaders in their field. The purpose of this focus is for students in fifth grade to take on a leadership role and develop a sense of what it takes to be a leader. The past four years and various grade level focuses have helped the students learn skills that are essential for effective and thoughtful leadership. The students operate at a high level of independence at this stage as well. They are thinking critically, exhibiting high levels of creativity, acting collaboratively, and communicating effectively throughout all five years in school.

example lessons from the past:

Redesign the school to better suit the needs of students.

What makes your blood boil?

These are a few of the lesson ideas that have been explored in my art room from various perspectives through various projects. We do a lot of discussing, viewing, idea-generating, etc. before beginning. As you can see, the grade level focus is specific enough to provide direction, but broad enough to pursue from many different angles while valuing many different perspectives. There are so many great artists and designers that explore these concepts in so many interesting ways. It is important to make sure the question(s) and focus are not rooted solely in art. Making a grade level focus on Line, or Ohio artists, or Masks, pigeon holes the project, shuts the door on collaboration and leaves little room for creative expression. I feel the grade level focus creates consistency, allows for collaboration (since it is not a focus solely rooted in art), provides an opportunity for student voice and speaks to the now of each and every student. Keep in mind these lesson examples are just initial seeds. The actual projects that sprouted from these seeds took quite a bit of time to grow and develop. Flexibility is the name of the game. Reflection, revise and reassess are constants in my room.

The grade level focus provides a starting point for the creative process. It empowers the students to not only learn artistic skills for visual understanding and communication, but promotes an environment where risk taking, critical thinking and creativity are essential.

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