Integrating choice-based art

Students are more motivated, and are more likely to learn, when they are pursuing their own ideas. In choice-based lessons, teachers act as guides and support students to take charge of their own learning. Teachers interact with students as if they were artists and offer them real choices for responding to their own interests.

Choice-based art is an effective instructional choice because it puts learners in the driver’s seat. Too often in arts classes, students ask teachers, “Is this good enough?” This happens despite teachers striving to present projects in ways that will connect with students and encouraging students’ freedom in making art. Too often students complete projects to meet the criteria of the lesson rather than out of their own motivation. Often, this happens because as teachers, we want our students to create something that we want them to create.

Below is a list of steps art educators can follow to transition to choice-based art lessons from traditional art approaches. This is not the only way, but it is one straightforward formula that has been used at all grade levels, K-12.

  • Choose a unit, such as painting.
  • Pose an engaging question or example, ask students if they could paint anything, what they would paint, regardless of the skill necessary.
  • Collect responses and separate into categories, for example people, landscapes, objects, imaginative scenarios.
  • Gather age-appropriate books and resources for each of these subjects.
  • Create four stations, one for each subject and put resources in the middle.
  • Invite students to go to the table of the subject they want to paint and check out the resources on the table.
  • Offer mini-lessons and individual instruction in the skills students would need to paint their chosen painting.


For more information, contact Maine DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Beth Lambert at

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