Planning Backwards Model

Name of Project:  Describing the World Around You

Grade Level or Age of Participant: 6-12 years old

School, Teacher and Classroom: MIA, Museum Education

Teaching Artist:  Abigail Engle

Visual Arts Content or Standards

Strand: Artistic Foundations Standards, as well as Artistic Process: Create or Make

Overview of Project

Over a period of 1-2 weeks the class will begin the session every week with a visit to various pieces in the collection where the artist chose to show their subject in different ways, both abstractly and representationally.  This class will explore how factors like emotions, time in history, and life experiences shape the world around us.  In the studio, students will work on a series of sketches, and a preliminary piece, which will lead to larger piece that the class will work on together to complete.  Students will be assigned one rectangle of the large piece to describe their content that will contribute to the large piece as a whole.  At the end of the class when the piece is done it will be cut up and each artist will take their slice of the painting home.

“Big Ideas”/ Essential QUESTION(s)

  • How do the artists see, and then represent the world around them?

  • How can we as artists help others see the world our way?

  • What materials can help artists represent their world?

Student Outcome Objectives

Students will:

1.  Demonstrate how to interpret things the artists see into images.

2.  Analyze and Understand artworks and the world around them.

3.  Create pieces based around methods talked about in class.

Prior Knowledge

Some prior knowledge of how to articulate with a pencil/paintbrush.  Otherwise, no prior knowledge is needed.

Lesson Preparation Timeline

  1. Walk the museum for inspiration and ideas

  2. Prepare Planning Backward Lesson Plan

  3. Prepare Materials 

  4. Teach

  5. Reflect

Examples of Artwork

Trees by Joan Mitchell

Swoon by Alixa and Naima

Studio by Larry Rivers

Tornado Over St. Paul by Julius Holm


Work will be assessed through the lens of the students outcome objectives.


  • Roll of Large Paper

  • Sketchbooks

  • Pastels/Dry Media

  • LARGE Paintbrushes

  • Collage Materials

  • Scissors

  • Plastic Bags

Learning Activities and Timing

SESSION 1: Introduction & what we’re doing today!

  1. Visit Swoon by Alixa and Naima (Maybe visit Studio by Larry Rivers)

  2. Begin Preliminary Painting for Large Final Piece

  3. Begin work on Large Final Piece on Paper

  4. Activity incorporating Plastic Bag Trees


  • Introduction & what we’re doing today!

  • Visit Trees by Joan Mitchell

  • Visit Tornado Over St. Paul by Julius Holm

  • Preliminary Life Drawing from patrons in the museum (or statues)

  • Finish Large Piece on Paper

  • Cut up Large Piece After Documentation

Teaching Artist Reflection

I expect issues if there are some kids who will go through projects faster than others, or some who work slower. 

I also expect some issues making sure the kids will respect the rules of keeping within their own space on the Large Piece.