Steps to create your won art lessons the SPARKLE way

Create Your Own Art Lessons the SPARKLE way! Part II

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, my SPARKLE method of developing your own art lessons might come in handy. In my first post, I wrote about Sourcing and Products. Today I will introduce Assessment and Research.

The Sparkle Method of Lesson Development





K-Kid Appeal


E-Elements of Art


Let’s admit one thing right off the bat, developing an art lesson is time consuming. Sure you can pass out supplies and hope for the best, but winging it doesn’t do anyone any favors. So set aside some time and really give yourself an opportunity to practice the lesson yourself.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with totem poles. I’ve collected books, posters and downloaded photos from the Internet. I love them. The colors, the symbolism, the design, they’re all good. But after many attempts at drawing the actual totem pole, my assessment came back rather dim. It was too hard. I’m trying not to sound whiny here, but it really was difficult. I couldn’t come up with a fool-proof strategy for effectively guiding thirty children through a totem-pole drawing lesson. Maybe the medium wasn’t working. Perhaps the project should be in 3-D instead of a flat drawing? Maybe clay? What about recycle-ables? Eventually, I scrapped the totem pole painting because if I couldn’t teach it to myself, there would be no way a group of kids would be successful (some might, but not all).

So here’s the trick: If I can’t nail down a project in thirty minutes, I know it won’t work for my students. It might be longer for you. But that’s my standard. Figure out what your threshold is.

Assessment ends when I can verbally explain every step of the way.

Sometimes, I know a project will be fantastic without even trying it. Sometimes, I go through my assessment steps only to learn that an older or younger age group would have been more appropriate. I’ve been known to try a project with one grade level at one school, then use the same project with another grade level at another school. Sometimes it’s easy to say that a particular lesson is adaptable for any age, but the truth is, when you’re teaching thirty kids, all with individual needs, then this statement works too hard to be accurate. That’s why I suggest grade levels in my art lessons. A classroom teacher has vastly different needs than a home-school educator.


I’m not a big fan of lengthy research. This is for a number of reasons. One, since my time with the kids is short, I don’t want facts and dates to take up too much time and two, unless you’re a skilled orator, too many facts tend to bore kids. I know, I know. I can already hear the voices of protests!

But I do incorporate some facts of historical interest.

Here’s my strategy: I like to find an amusing, interesting or downright bizarre facts about the subject in which I’m teaching and then, make it age appropriate. For instance, when teaching my “Dancing Cow” art lesson (Drawing Animals PDF) I focused on the texture of the cow’s nose; soft and velvety. I speak from experience here, telling them all about the snappy Holsteins that dot the countryside around my childhood home. The visualization helps my little first graders when drawing and painting the nose. I might be getting carried away here, but I feel as though the children are imagining themselves what the soft nose must feel like.

As for facts such as birth year, country of origin, parents occupation, etc. I ignore it all unless I can tie in a fact that the kids would find interesting. One of my favorite artists is Maud Lewis. She was born in Nova Scotia and because that’s where I was born, I somehow feel entitled to share Maud’s life. Like how she used the leftover paints from the fishing yard to use in her paintings. Or how she used to sit on the side of the road selling her paintings (and even cooler, how a lady who actually read this blog bought one of those paintings back in the late 60’s).

Use research sparingly in your lessons. At most, spend 5 minutes and even better, accompany any facts with visuals. Basically, get to the painting or drawing as quickly as you can.

I hope these tips help. Of course, you’ll have your own strategies, but isn’t it fun to try new things?

Missed the series?

#1: Sourcing and Products

#2: Assessment and Research

#3: Kid-Appeal and Lingo

#4: Element of Arts

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Miss Spooner

    I love the SPARKLE method!! You have amazing ideas 🙂

  • Lori

    These posts have been very helpful! Thank you.

  • Cassie

    Thanks for your advice! Now some for you regarding the totem poles…I did a project last year using recycled coffee cans, oatmeal containers, etc. We used colored papers, painted papers, etc. to model the faces. They turned out great. I was able to stack them and display them at our annual art show. You should try it!

  • Patty Palmer

    Thanks, Cassie! I've seen that done before and believe that a 3-D project will be perfect for the totem theme. Now, I just need to demo it myself!

  • child central station

    Yes, on that Totem Pole project… We did one too! We made ours out of coffee cans that we painted and added foam or plastic pieces to. The original idea I found came from Family Fun http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/tin-can-totem-poles-667754/. You can see ours here.http://childcentralstation.blogspot.com/2010/07/rock-garden.html I have a friend who used the same method but made an indoor totem. She made all kinds of face pieces out of magnets and the children were able to change the totem all the time! I have visions of completing something similar with felt! I'll let you know when I take the time to make it happen!

  • Patty Palmer

    Thanks for the links! The coffee can totem looks like a fun home project!

  • F

    I did a totem pole project with my fifth graders using pieces of driftwood I had collected at a lake. I cut them into 12-18" pieces. Students drew their designs onto tissue paper with sharpies and glued the tissue paper onto the wood. When lots of glue was used the tissue paper almost disappeared. Card board wings were glued on where needed. When it was dry students used markers to add color. They look great!

  • Patty Palmer

    Hi "F". These totem poles sound amazing. Glad it worked out for you!

  • Rebecca Stees

    Awww, I’m curious now about touching a cow’s soft nose!
    My students love to hear stories about when I was a child.

    I finally have enough corks to do a project…… perhaps totem poles.

    • frances felix

      i love the sparkling system

  • Debra Travers

    Great ideas . . . .thank you.
    For some reason on the Creating your own Lessons, my lesson 3 is same as lesson 2.
    Anyone else having same problem

  • lielaine2013

    This is amazing.

  • Andrea Branstetter

    I love the SPARKLE way! Can I use this to create lessons for the other ARTS as well? I just retired and am working with a counsel to advocate Arts Integration. This would be a fantastic way to reach classroom teachers. Of course, you would receive full credit and links to your pages. Thank you! This truly is amazing!! Andrea

  • Kaye

    Classroom Teachers ToolKit is not down loading.

    • Bethany

      This is Bethany from Team Sparkle. Thanks so much for letting us know that there is an issue with the link. We will work on getting that taken care of. Thanks!

Follow Us

In stores 8/21


The {lesson_title} Lesson is Locked inside of the {bundle_title}

Unlocking this lesson will give you access to the entire bundle and use {points} of your available unlocks.

Are you sure?

No Yes

The {bundle_title} is Locked

Accessing this bundle will use {points} of your available unlocks.

Are you sure?

No Yes



The {lesson_title} Lesson is Locked inside of the {bundle_title}

To unlock this lesson, close this box, then click on the “lock” icon.