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Lesson Plan 1: Redefining the PAST

In all irony, the lesson I most enjoyed as a student in high school,

Production outcome from past lesson

was perhaps the least successful in encouraging 21st Century skills. There was very little collaboration, technology, and student choice in the assignment. Nevertheless, it sticks with me as being a great opportunity to problem-solve and learn technique in sculpting with clay. The outcome of this lesson can be seen here. Nevertheless, flaws in instructional design resulted in a project which took far longer than it should have to complete, and eliminated the possibility of working in an environment of supportive peers. Even the expression sculpted was the choice of my teacher, and not that of myself. I did get to use a digital camera to capture the images from which I worked off of during the construction process, but this was a fairly lame integration of technology, even for that time. I was the only student in the class assigned this project, and was not even a real member of the class. As an independent study student, my only hope for collaboration was with the drawing class across the hall, that was also working on portraiture. In this recreated lesson plan, below, I've attempted to improve on a lesson from which I benefited a great deal. In it, I hope that I have managed to encourage perseverance, problem-solving, technique, and quality art production in the way my teacher taught me. All the while, I have added the opportunity to engage in more technology and collaboration.

Teacher: Alison Bongiorno

Grade Level: 11&12th/AP

Lesson Title: Expressive Self-Portrait Bust in Clay


This unit focuses on the creation of three dimensional human figures and body parts in various media. In this unit, spanning the majority of the semester, students will learn how to build sculptures using traditional and modern techniques and materials, while studying past and present artists throughout the process. Through their work, students will gain a greater understanding of the three dimensional form, and gain a better appreciation for artwork. Finally, this challenging unit will help to prepare students for higher education in the arts and future studio practice.


Expressive Self-Portrait Bust in Clay, requires the students chose a facial expression on which to focus their piece, working in pairs to photograph each others’ pose/expression. Throughout the lesson they will spend class time researching in the library and on classroom desktops the past and present techniques of addressing sculptural self-portraits and capturing expression in clay. Students will work through technical issues as they arise during the building process. This student-directed assignment will have little intervention from the teacher, as students will be forced to work through problems using only their own hands and the research/knowledge gained from other artist sources and peers. This lesson is intended for experienced students who already have an understanding of materials and the three dimensional form, and wish to further pursue three-dimensional artwork in the future.

It is important for the student to gain a better understanding of how to build in clay, and appreciate the work and craftsmanship of other artists also working with the human figure. This assignment will allow students to better understand human anatomy, while also teaching students the value of research and problem-solving while building with clay.

This lesson addresses the following standards:


Analyze works of arts influenced by experiences or historical and cultural events through production, performance or exhibition.


Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities.


Students will learn how to build three dimensional self-portraits in clay, focusing on a personal facial expression. They will gain a better understanding of the anatomy of the human form, while also learning about past and present artists in the field and their methods of art making. Students will better understand the use of various clay tools and techniques.

Students will be able to synthesize understandings through the creation of an expressive portrait bust.


What do artists gain through the creative process?

How has technology influenced the way in which artists work?


Teacher Materials:

  • Reference books and articles

  • Titles of library books to use as resources along with recommended reference articles/websites

  • PowerPoint presentation

  • Student and teacher project examples

  • Video demonstration/s of practicing artists

Adam Reeder, Sculpture Demo - How to Sculpt a Portrait Bust

Student Materials:

  • Tupperware containers for clay slip

  • Trash bags for sealing in moisture while working on clay bust

  • Wood for armature and base

  • Clay tools

  • Clay

  • Digital camera

  • Mirrors

  • Class computers



The lesson will close with a class critique (in person or via video chat) of all pieces. Students will comment on each other’s pieces, offering constructive feedback and reflecting on what they would have done differently. The lesson will culminate in the students’ creation of a digital portfolio, including and image of this piece.


Students will be required to complete a self-assessment, evaluating their own work. A class period will also be dedicated to viewing and critiquing all student projects from this lesson, which will help to assess work further (indicated above). The instructor will take into account the students’ self-assessment, critique, effort, participation, and final product/self-portrait bust quality, to assign a grade to each student out of 100 points. The following rubric will be utilized:


Adapted from Mrs. Abbott’s 12th grade Sculpture III/ Independent Study instruction

Adam Reeder & Carrie Reeder, Sculpture Demo - How to Sculpt a Portrait Bust


#LessonPlan #21stCenturyLearning

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