Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Do We Need Pacing Guides?

It's been over a week since I created my last post, and I'm going through blog writing withdrawal.  At the end of the school year, it may be time to wind down, but the workload does not get any lighter. 

One of the many reasons why I started slowing down in my posts is because we are a "Rising Star" school district.  "Rising Star" means that we are under review for refinement in our curriculum, environment, and everyday school practices.  As the art representative for our district, I report to the curriculum department whenever the state is in need of evidence of our visual arts practices.

Recently, we were asked by the state to create a month-by-month pacing guide of the art curriculum.  A pacing guide is a document created to show what concepts and standards you are incorporating month by month.  Many districts have adopted pacing guides to keep classrooms on task and ready for ISATS, as well as prerequisite knowledge for the next school year. 

From many conversations I've had with art education colleagues, many art departments have also adapted this method of pacing as well.  It helps to keep all visual art teachers on track to scaffold student knowledge and experience with materials.  Not all school districts require the art department to follow a guide.  If you do not, you have the freedom to choose which lessons to teach in your class, granted they follow any state standard you are required to teach.

In our district, we have four art teachers total:  one stationary elementary teacher (has a room without a sink and no kiln), two traveling art teachers (I have two rooms with sinks, and a kiln at one school, while the other traveller has two rooms with sinks and no kiln), and one junior high art teacher (room, sinks, and kiln).  When we were told to create a month to month pacing guide, we were given a challenge. 

How could we follow month to month when we each have different situations? 

With seeing students once a week for 40 minutes, how can we stay on task when days off, assemblies, and school wide events get in the way???

It's not as if we haven't combined lessons before.  We have made sure in the past to scaffold student learning year by year, so when they reach jr. high, the students are at the same level of learning.  One teacher may focus on the concept of perspective one month, while another visited perspective in a different month since her school was focusing on another theme at the time.

Another challenge was materials.  Not all art teachers have a kiln, and half of us previously pushed a cart froom room to room.  With lack of storage space, we found ways to work with what we had.  When students reach the junior high, my previous students may know the methods of ceramic clay, firing, and glazing, but the elementary students from the other schools may only know air dry clay (and not all elementary teachers work with clay).

With all the challenges presented, we still had to divise a plan, which is currently in the works.

So to share what we have so far, we designed the guide in a table format.  We have a column for the month, standard, concepts, and overall idea of the lesson.  The guide is in progress, but it's a start to show the state that we are working toward refinement.

I apologize for the poor image (I'm writing this at work), we started each grade level guide with a list of the state standards.

This is an example page of our 1st grade pacing guide so far.  This is an in-progress document, so a full document will be posted once finished (and when I figure out how to post a microsoft document into my blog posts, it will look MUCH better).

So if my pacing guide isn't finished...why am I writing about this? 

Every art teacher has a different situation.  Some have guides to follow, others have free reign.  I'm curious to hear what you have.  If you browse passed this post by chance, please take a moment to share what your district does.  It would be nice to gain a perspective on how common or uncommon pacing guides are in the art curriculum.


  1. Does this mean that EVERY child in first grade will be making a penguin puppet in January? I would have a hard time with this. However, my district doesn't have anything. Teach the standards however you want/whenever for the length of elementary. I would like if we had a bit more of a guide. However, we have everything from people with classrooms who see their students every other day for an hour and a very nice budget, to schools who have art once a week without a classroom or kiln or sink. We also have schools without an art teacher. Then, the classroom teacher is expected to be teaching art.

    Our district is pretty large, though. I don't even know how many art teachers are in the district. It would probably be a much bigger task to do the pacing guide just for that reason. I have my own yearly plans that look pretty similar to this, however.

  2. We have a basic guide. Divided by trimesters, three columns.Then three rows: Elements & Principles, Artists, Cultures. We decided as an art staff what went into each of the rows for each trimester. It is basic enough that we can use a variety of lessons, yet still cover the same concepts across our huge district.

  3. We have nothing. There are three elementary schools in my public school district and I have met the other 2 teachers once in my five years. My principal assumes I create a curriculum based on the state and national art standards, but he has no clue about anything.

    I created a pacing guide on my own when I started at a catholic school 10 years ago and update it every year. I find it helpful because some of the grades will go on forever with one project and I am not happy with myself professionally at the end of the year if I feel I have not covered most of what I feel we need to cover.

    No accountability for sure. Some recognition for my work would be nice.

    1. That's how I felt the first few years, but know that it's required, I'm happy we're working together. It's just tricky to think of a month-by-month basis when we have so much in the way.

  4. Do you have a completed pacing guide (or partially completed) you can send me in PDFs. I would be willing to pay for it!