Steps to create your own art lessons the SPARKLE way.

Create your own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way! Part I

Developing art lessons can be overwhelming. Sure, you can use old stand-bys, fellow blogger lessons or source a few from art books. It’s what I’ve done and still do. But if you’re wondering how to go about creating your own art projects, this series can help guide you along.

I call it my Sparkle Method. This past year I vowed to use only original lessons. I almost succeeded. 90% of the lessons I taught were self-developed. Time-consuming, yes, but it was also what kept me motivated and excited to teach class after class, day after day.

It goes like this:

The Sparkle Method of Lesson Development





K-Kid Appeal


E-Elements of Art



I begin most lesson ideas with a picture, an image or an idea. It has to come from somewhere, right? Like most artists, I’m a visual person. A magazine clipping, a greeting card, and a piece of wrapping paper are recent inspirations. If you prefer less random sources of inspirations, there is no better place than your local library. Children’s book illustrators are my mentors. Non-fiction titles have just as much to show as fiction, so don’t limit yourself.

What I look for: I’ll get into this more later, but the illustrations have to be understandable. By that I mean, clear. No wishy-washy paints or digital images. Illustrators that have translated best have pictures that look as though a child could have created it. Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes & Lois Ehlert are terrific examples.


I’ll admit it, occasionally a product will inspire an entire lesson. Sometimes, however, it won’t. So go ahead and order that fancy new product in the art catalog, but be wary. The best lessons use the most basic materials.

My must-have list includes:

  • Tempera and watercolor paints (preferably liquid watercolor…really. Go buy them now!)
  • Oil pastels (extra black and white)
  • Black waterproof markers
  • A good set of brushes in different sizes (buy the best you can afford and take care of them well. They will last a very long time.)
  • Chalk Pastels
  • White Drawing Paper (Sulphite paper)
  • Basic art supplies such as white school glue, scissors, pencils and erasers
  • Broad-tip colored markers. (I use Crayola)
  • Free stuff like newspaper, plastic containers, egg cartons, box board, yarn, fabric scraps, buttons, magazines, etc.

If you have the stuff I listed, you’re in excellent shape for a bevvy of stellar lessons.

Now for the fun stuff….

Metallic tempera paint (I LOVE this stuff. It has inspired many a lesson.)

•Mod-Podge (Expensive, but just one gallon lasts two years for me. I use it for collage pieces, concoct fancy paint mixtures and just sticking stuff down.)

•Metallic Oil Pastels (a must for any Egyptian art lessons but it adds such a cool embellishment to just about any painting project)

•Glittery Anything! (Glitter, sequins, glitter paint…love it all!)

The last stuff isn’t necessary. In fact, I bet there are many of you who wouldn’t touch the stuff. I bow down to you. You are the art purists! I’m like a chef who loves all the new gadgets. One pretty piece of tissue paper can have me dreaming of art ideas for weeks! Whatever motivates you, use it. It doesn’t have to be what other art teachers use. You are the art teacher. It’s your job to use whatever materials you have to inspire your flock of little artists.

Missed the series?

#1: Sourcing and Products

#2: Assessment and Research

#3: Kid-Appeal and Lingo

#4: Element of Arts


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  • Karen

    I think you should write a book to share all your wonderful ideas and lessons. I am sure it would be a best seller! Love the SPARKLE method so far! Have a great year of creating!

  • artyowza

    you are very inspirational!

    love the sparkle method!

    I use a lot of manilla file folders as cardstock and my students love silver sharpies!

  • alecat

    I've only just now come across your blog for the first time. What can I say? …. WOW!
    Thank you so much for this fabulous resource. I really am looking forward to going through your posts for much inspiration. 🙂

    Catherine (aka alecat, Australia)

  • Patty Palmer

    Thanks so much, Alecat!

  • Mrs. Kim

    What brand metallic oil pastels do you use and where do you purchase them? Never thought to give them a try before!

  • Patty Palmer

    Hi Mrs. Kim,
    I don't have a specific brand, I just buy the cheapest! I usually buy form Nasco or Saxs.

  • Sidney Ashworth

    I recently bought liquid watercolor to try it out. Do I add water or is it ready to go right out of the bottle?

    • Patty

      Yup. It’s a concentrate (at least mine are) so add as much or as little water as you like. Experiment. It’s really fun!

      • Robin

        Hi, this is a fabulous website. I currently teach 500 students and am trying to decide whether to try the liquid watercolors. How do you use them in a class setting with so many kids. 36 at a time?
        Do you use plastic palette dishes? If so do you have problems with spills when the table gets bumped?
        I am currently using Prang watercolor sets (purchased by the school) , but HATE the colors. You can’t tell what the colors are. If I hear one more poor child ask,”Which one is black? Which one is purple?” So sad…

        Which brand do you recommend?
        Also Biggie Jr 100 count watercolor packs are discontinued so do you have another cheap source for watercolor paper?
        Thanks, Robin

        • Patty

          Buy liquid watercolors! They are fantastic! I put them in small condiment cups with lids. Then I put the condiment cups in a 6-well palette so they won’t tip over. Each table receives 6 colors. They are allowed to blend colors on their paper only. Never in the cups.
          I didn’t know Biggie Brand discontinued their paper. I buy whatever school grade paper is the cheapest. Often I buy large sheets (18″ x 24″) and cut them in half.
          Hope this helps.

          • Robin

            Patty, thank you sooooo much for responding, I was pricing watercolor sets on Blick and I just can’t afford the refillable ones. So do you buy your liquid watercolors form Blick or do you have a better source? Which brand do you use?
            I love the condiment cup idea. I had a major mess with the dumb watercups being tipped over because the kids move around at their desks and then the cups get bumped over, these are only filled 1/2 way and it still makes a mess.
            I casn’t imagine the liquid watercolor being knocked over, yikes!!!!
            What kind of plastic palettes are you using? The ones from Blick or another brand.
            Also do you have 4 students per table sharing the palette?

            I also need to invest in some brushes. I was looking at the class packs but I don’t use half the sizes that come with them.I have noticed all the paint is beginning to peel on the brushes bought before.
            I have 20 classes, sometimes 3 in a day. With only a 20 minute window of cleanup/set up before the next group comes in.
            Do you just refill the cups or have extras ready for each class?

            • Patty

              Hi Robin,
              Take a look at my list of art supplies (link on main page) and if I specify a brand, then I’m partial to it. If I don’t specify a brand, I usually buy what’s cheapest. It’s hard for me to tell you exactly where to buy each item as that would take a long time and often times the catalogues rearrange their items. I tend to be partial to Saxs and Nasco (links available on my Art Supply List), so order one of their full size catalogues and you’ll find everything there.
              Put the watercolor in the plastic condiment cups and then place each cup in a muffin-type palette. They tend to be pretty secure that way, but if they spill, well, they spill. It’s hard to have a fool proof method.
              4-6 people at a table.
              I like brushes with plastic handles.

  • Robin

    Thank you Patty, I found your supply list, thanks so much. I will order those catalogs, never heard of either of them, so THANK YOU.
    I appreciate you responding to my email. You are truly amazing.
    Have a happy paint day!

  • Kristi

    Help! Out of a desperate need at the last minute, I was hired on as an art teacher at our small private elementary school. I’m teaching 1st-5th and I’ve not taught art before. I’m trying to come up with an overall plan for the semester before filling it in with projects, but I can’t make a decision. The former art teacher suggested teacher principles of design and art styles (realism, etc.) since she covered elements of art last year. Not sure what makes sense! Is there any “outlines” of what to cover for certain grades so that I could fill in with projects (fun ones that I find on this site for example!). I plan to teach 1st one project, 2nd-3rd grades one project and 4th-5th one project so that I have three projects a week to plan. Suggestions? Resources? THANKS!

    • Patty

      Hi Kristi,
      I’ve received many of these types of questions in the last couple of months. I’m planning a post that will help you out…stay tuned!

  • Tara Brenno

    My admin has asked me to create an outline of my art curriculum. She wants me to list month by month what the big picture is. She wants the lessons to be related to the WA State Standards and include assessment and rubrics for each lesson. Her suggestion was to have it based on art history. The whole thing sounds way to limiting. I have never worked from a set art curriculum. I like to keep it fresh for my self and students.
    I told her that rather than basing my curriculum on art history I would base it on the elements of art, highlighting various artists and cultures in my lessons. I have been sitting at my computer for hours looking for projects for each grade level that highlight each element.
    Oh, how I miss the good old days when I could just close my door and create art with students without worrying about standards, assessments and teacher evaluations tied to student learning goals.

  • lchamate@hotmail.com

    Hi Patty
    I have spent HOURS looking for just an ART TEACHER PLANNER sheet or printable. I even looked in TpT and I bought one but didn’t worked out ( some technical problemas) Where could I find one? I need something simple but a resource to help me plan my lessons, materials, techniques Iam planning on using in every lesson, what artist, or element of art , or culture, etc. I thought you must be the one to be able to help me here . Thank you
    If its on your site I haven’t seen it .I have wasted many hours today already trying to find one.

    Thank you!!

    Lesly Chamate

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