Tag Archives: unit

About Face

What better way to start my new fresh faced blog than to focus on a great artistic pupil who I have been working with for the past year. Chantelle M (S5, OLSP) is an amazing artist on every level; driven, full of emotion and substance, observant and taking everything in – like a human sponge.


For her Higher Expressive Unit this year she focused on self portraiture and explored the idea of morphing faces, emotions and body parts fading in and out of consciousness. Her final piece (above) looked at the idea of what exists and doesn’t, is the subject fading from view or is she trying to obscure herself from us, but remains in sight. It is an enigmatic and thought provoking image.


Chantelle M received great praise when her unit was first verified at the start of the year and should do well when the results come back tomorrow morning. The final piece (a collage of book paper, tracing paper and mixed media including acrylic paint, pencil, charcoal) also won a local competition to design a school library card.

Popular Pop-Up Poplar

Well it’s X-mas time again and although I’m not a huge fan of X-mas units, I did give some S1 pupils (Castlehead) the chance to make a Pop-Up X-mas tree card. The idea is a popular one, though I decided to Photoshop my own own stencil.

Above Andrew T adds colour to his sketch of parcels, his tree is finely decorated with contrasting red tinsel and baubles, while below Joanne S decides on the placement of her ‘Merry X-mas’ tag.

Below Rachel J above shows off her fine detailing on the pine texture and delicate baubles.

The stencil for the X-mas Tree Pop-Up Card can be downloaded from ‘The Box’ at the bottom of the right-hand column. There are four main pointers for making the card, listed below:

1. Trace the outline of the stencil onto thicker cartridge paper.

2. Fold the paper/card into four (in half horizontally and in half vertically)

3. Cut through the bold lines (the bottom of the tree layers).

4. Score the dotted lines (the sides of the tree layers).

Press out the layers while folding the card and you have a pop-up card ready for colouring.

Merry Xmas.

Worthy Of Goldsworthy

While on my third student placement at Notredame Secondary  I thought that it was time to try teaching outside the classroom. Not just in another room or hall, actually outside. Now most teachers won’t remember the ‘outside’, but hopefully some of you pupils out there will have seen it during your summer holidays.

I decided to get pupils to collect some leaves (I made twenty kits with gloves, a bag and rules on collecting) to start a Goldsworthy influenced unit. The leaves would be studied and drawn, then composed and collaged in the classroom to prepare for outside work. By involving the pupils in the task under classroom rules I was preparing them for similar work outside the classroom.


Pupils sketched their chosen leaf, traced and duplicated the sketch, then inked the drawing in black pen. The drawings were then cut out and composed on a sheet of green card. Pupils were allowed to swap and trade their leaves with other peers to build up a pattern of their choice. The pattern was then fixed with glue.


Pupils, now familiar with the idea of making a constructed pattern with natural objects,explored the technique with natural items in 3D in the classroom.



I split the classroom into five workstations; wood, petals, leaves, stone and water. At each workstation pupils would explore the material and try to build as many pieces of art in a ten minute block. Good examples were then photographed and discussed with the class on why they were successful. These ideas would then be used for inspiration when we took the project outside.

Peer Evaluation


Marking can become extremely boring, as a teacher you are prone to do it at least once a week or even once a day, but it’s the big word that goes around schools; ‘assessment’. ‘Assessment is for Learning’, ‘Formative Assessment’ and ‘Final Assessment’, assessment, assessment… assessment.

This is all extremely important for teachers to have to do and for pupils to have to go through, but often there is very little reward for those that don’t do so well, other than knowing that they didn’t do too well. That is why ‘Peer Assessment’ is so important. It makes the whole thing more interactive, more involving and therefore more interesting and important to the pupils.

By changing the marker from the usual Mr Smith or Mrs Jones and placing it as the responsibility of the pupil, you are putting power into their hands and which pupil does not want more control over their learning.

Art & Design is great for Peer Evaluation. Pupils already can see what is good and what doesn’t work, even though they’ve had no formal tutoring. There’s something inert inside us that makes us very visually aware from a young age. It’s then pretty easy for us Art Teachers to teach how things should be and not.


I have developed a quick single period peer assessment that can be printed out or changed to suit your needs below. Having now practiced this method for two years and received praise from other art teachers who have tried it, I would suggest this task for all pupils.

It involves the pupil completing a self assessment first by filling out pupil effort out of ten, a star (good point) and a wish (something that could be better) and then finishing with a mark out of ten for the work. This not only gives them a comparison, it also gets them familiar with the task to then perform it five more times for other pupils.

After self assessment all pupils should move around the classroom to another pupil work and complete the task again. I like to give pupils a different coloured pen so as to avoid confusion if a part of the assessment is missed (i.e. “Which pupil with a purple pen marked Lisa’s work last? You forgot to mark in effort.”) The pupil work and sheet should remain on the table and only the Pupil and their pen should move.

Pupils should move five times and mark their peers appropriately. Some classes will work, some won’t. Though it is worth trying with all pupils as there is much to gain from seeing peer marking and performing peer marking.

After the peer marks have been completed, the pupils return to their original seats to look at their marks, stars and wishes. I would then normally ask individuals if they agree or disagree with statements made.

The final part of the task involves some mathematics. Pupils add up their five peer marks and divide by five, rounding down. This will give them a peer mark to compare against their original self mark.


Pupils with:

Peer > Self – They are being hard on their work and don’t see the good things that others do.

Self > Peer – Are being big-headed about their work and consider it to be of a better standard than others do.

Peer = Self – Pupils are spot on with how they perceive their work. They are aware of their audience and have an empathy with them. This is the more suitable state for anyone that wishes to be creative and public.

Although this sounds very complicated with lots of parts, discussion and freedom, it is a very rewarding lesson for teacher and pupil alike. I would advise all teachers to try this task at least twice with two very different class years before writing it off completely.

In the files box (bottom right panel) you will find a download-able copy of the end of unit peer evaluation form or you can click the image above to enlarge and then right click save. You can use this copy or change it in Photoshop, all that I ask is that you let me know how it went and if you would try it again.

“Thank You For The Music”



Continuing with our look at great intermediate units. Rebekah M (S3) has worked extremely hard at getting her musically themed unit together. I really like how she has specifically chosen related media for each instrument. Soft instruments with soft materials, delicate sounding instruments in delicate styles etc.


Juggling your interests can be a hard thing to do. Sometimes one of them has to give, though throughout this year Rebekah and I have tried hard to keep her interests up and in continuous momentum. By relating her unit to her interest in music, Rebekah was able to enjoy her year a lot more and although she missed a few periods of art to music lessons, she was still driven enough to take her work with her and catch up in her spare time. It is for this reason (well that, and the fact that I really like these sheets) that Rebekah deserves ‘Artwork of the Week’.


Insect Chairs Unit Plan

Below you will find a typical layout for a unit plan. After all the practical elements have been thought up, and all the practical tasks have been tried and tested, the timing is arranged for each section of the lesson. This is by no means a great unit layout as there were serious timing issues when put into practice.

When starting teaching you must allow time and tasks for things to go too quickly or slowly… it means that teachers always create more prep than they need, but it is an easier job if they are prepared.

Insect Chairs Unit Plan

The above file is a Microsoft Word Document (.doc)