How The High School Art Class Syllabus Sets the Tone for Greatness

How to use the art syllabus to outline grading policy and procedures for high school art teachers.

Why do I Need a High School Art Class Syllabus?

Every art teacher strives to create an atmosphere of positivity and an environment that encourages all students to try their best with integrity and pride each day?  We all want our students comfortable and confident taking risks and finding joy and flow in creating art consistently all year.  

There are many factors that compound and contribute to student success and motivation in art class, but they all lead back to the same fundamental concept. 

Students must BELIEVE that they can succeed and TRUST that you are going to help them do that.  

In order for us to be able to teach students new skills and techniques and encourage them to think and see differently than they always have, they must feel safe.  We have to create an atmosphere that recognizes their insecurities, shows them how much we care and understand them, proves we are committed to helping them grow, and makes it possible for them to succeed.

If they sense for one second that we don’t care, they won’t either. 

My goal for this post  is to help art teachers understand how to create a syllabus that shows students how to succeed in art and shows them you have plans and systems to support them and help them grow.

Everyone feels safer when they know what is expected of them and when they believe they can meet those expectations.

Establishing rules and procedures that are well thought out, in writing, explained thoroughly and repeatedly, and adhered to consistently is the FIRST step to setting the tone and implementing everything else.  This is where the high school art class syllabus comes in.

Everybody’s art class rules, policies, and procedures will be different.  However, the most important thing is that you have them and that students don’t have to guess what they are. 

Your syllabus should clearly outline what your expectations are for students in a way that makes them feel confident they can succeed in your class.  Some things you may want to include in your middle or high school art syllabus are: 

  • Your systems for storing projects
  • Your system for submitting projects
  • Your cleanup procedures
  • Expectations for what to do when leaving the classroom to use the restroom, guidence, etc.
  • Instructions on where to gather and return supplies
  • Your grading policy 
  • Cell phone policy
  • Your contact information
  • Any join codes or instructions for joining your digital classroom

Once you have everything outlined and in writing, it is a good idea to post them where both parents and students can refer back to them.  I have them sign or digitally aknowledge the document, just to clarify that they saw and received a copy.  This is helpful in case there are any questions later.  

I like to use an ART Class Policy and Procedure Sheet with interesting fonts and graphics just to make everything a little more fun and easier to read and understand.  You can use any style that works for you.

Post and link your syllabus everywhere.  Link it to your Google Classroom or digital platform,  post it on your website, include it in your first week of school slideshow, distribute hard copies to students, and hang it in your classroom.  I use Digital Portfolios in my class, so I also include a link to it in each student’s portfolio.  It is also very nice to distribute to parents at Back to School Night.  

Just because you review and post your art syllabus does not mean students will immediately remember everything and adhere to what it says.

Consistency, modeling, and thanking students for a job well done is key.   It will take some repetition and review,  but if you continue to model and remind students daily it will become second nature and one less thing they need to consciously think about.

How using a syllabus in the high school art class to outline grading policies, procedures for submitting art projects, drawings, and assignments can set the tone for the year.

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