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AMPed Up Curriculum / Article 1 of 10 | Arts & Activities
Aug 2017

AMPed Up Curriculum / Article 1 of 10

AMPed Up Curriculum / Article 1 of 10

Article 1 of 10

What’s in Store This Year …
by Debi West

I am very excited to be back again this year, writing another curricular series for my favorite art-education magazine, Arts & Activities!

This year, I will be sharing my advanced art lessons with you all. I have been honored to teach children through the visual arts for the past 24 years and just spent the past 10 years at the secondary level, teaching Intro to Art on up to Advanced Placement® (AP®) courses with freshmen through senior students.

I can still recall my first year at the secondary level, having taught elementary students for 14 years, and being told that I would be teaching the AP Draw/Paint and 2D Studio courses. I was super excited AND super nervous! I wondered if I was fit to teach at this advanced level and within my first year, I realized that I could do it and I could be even better if I networked with other seasoned advanced art course educators. That first year I attended the National Art Education Association Convention (as I do every year) and I hit as many AP and Scholastic workshops as I possibly could and absorbed it all. I was hooked and I learned so much!

When I started writing my annual secondary theme-based articles for Arts & Activities three years ago (2015–16), I began with my Intro Curriculum and mentioned several times that my intro courses were truly the foundation for the success of my advanced students.

Students must know and understand the fundamentals of art—the vocabulary, the elements, the principles, the media and they must be given the time to experiment to be truly ready to tackle the rigorous advanced course that demands critical and divergent thinking at a higher level. I recommend taking a look at a few of these published lessons and also taking a good look at your current intro curriculum as you begin to develop your advanced curriculum.

The articles that you will read over this school year will be much looser than my past lessons because students must be given freedom to create and come up with their own artistic answers to the prompts that I use.

I call my advanced curriculum “AMPS,” which is an acronym for “Artist/Art Movement–Media–Prompt– Subject Matter.” Each lesson focuses on one or more of these to “amp up” my students’ portfolios. Over the years, I have begun to refer to these as the “Power of the Prompt.”

I am excited to share eight of these advanced AMPS lessons with you in the months ahead, as well as my students’ capstone performance final, and I look forward to seeing where your students go with your new “amped up” curriculum!

Here are a few must-dos as you plan for this advanced course:

• Explain the difference between breadth and concentration.

• Hold an Advanced Art Parents’ Night to make sure that everyone is on the same page early on (example on opposite page).

• Give the student’s their AMPS/prompts early on so they can have time to plan accordingly.

• Share the new self-evaluation rubric form that resembles the AP® scoring guide and will help students realize the new way their work will be graded (I created this to help students see how their work will be scored at the National level).

• Give students their advanced art “Checklist for Success” and remind them how important it is to keep up with due dates and homework assignments.


Acrylic; 24″ x 32″.


Acrylic; 18″ x 24″.


Acrylic; 24″ x 18″.


Acrylic; 24″ x 32″.

I have been honored to present at the past two Summer AP Conferences, where I share the value and importance of foundational/intro courses, and share my student’s successes over the past 10 years. It’s amazing how much we learn and grow as art educators when we share our successes. 

Next Up: “Still Life Studies in 4.”


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A&A Contributing Editor Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT, was an art educator and department chair at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She is now involved with her two businesses,  WESTpectations Educational Consulting and Crystal Collage Children’s Art Studio in Suwanee.


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