My Story - an identity journey through process art and bookbinding

A term long sequence of lesson plans for students in upper primary school - Levels 5 & 6

As students move towards the end of their primary school years and begin to look towards secondary school and beyond, they often begin to become more aware of who they are and their place in the world. This learning sequence enables students to reflect on and celebrate what it is that makes them unique. It incorporates an array of materials, techniques and art making process that come together to produce a unique artists book for each student.

Designed to be undertaken during either first or fourth term the book can have extra blank pages added to serve as a portfolio to store the students work for the entire years’ work if desired. This is a complete term long project utilising 10 single lessons of 50 - 60 minutes to fit with most primary school specialist structures of one art lesson per week.

In levels 5 & 6 students are asked to consider the how and why artists, artisans and designers realise their ideas through different mediums. Students develop conceptual and expressive skills through making and responding to artworks and explore a diversity of ideas and viewpoints. (VCAA) Due to the incredible variety that exists within the visual arts discipline an artist’s book or artist’s journal is an opportunity to explore many materials in a way that produces a cohesive end product that is not only a highly effective way of presenting artworks but also provides a keepsake for students transitioning away from the sanctuary of primary school.

As previously stated, the arts are an essential part of education because through the arts, we learn about what it is that makes us human. Exploring identity and our place in the world forms part of the Victorian Curriculum’s Personal and Social Capability, the achievement standards for students in levels 5 & 6 states that “Students recognise and appreciate the uniqueness of all people.” (here) And the Health and Physical Education curriculum states that students should “Explore how identities are influenced by people and places.” (VCHPEP105)

In the Arts curriculum general description, it is affirmed that “The Arts contributes to the development of confident and creative individuals and enriches Australian society.” Making art class the perfect place for students to delve into their ideas surrounding their own identity and how it fits within their class, school, home and wider community. In addition to this the examination of one’s identity has long provided artists with their subject matter; self-portraits have been made by perhaps every artist to ever paint, draw or sculpt! Providing countless artworks available for students to draw inspiration from.

Moving to the specifics of the Visual Arts Curriculum for levels 5 & 6 there are four key content descriptors that must be addressed. Visual Arts Practices, exploring a range of materials is key to this unit plan as it incorporates a range of process art practices to allow students to experience how different materials can influence the possible outcomes. Process Art emphasises the materials and procedures in the finished product. (Williams 2015) This connects directly the content descriptor dot point of “using an enquiry as a basis for their own art making and use of materials and techniques.” (VCAVAV030) In addition to this the focus on the process allows for teacher and peer feedback to move away from art as a finished product to be handed in and assessed in a formative way and allows multiple opportunities for in time formative assessment that are more effective and build student’s self-esteem.

Using an inquiry process is what many artists do and allows for students to experience their own authentic art making. An inquiry model is a pedagogical model that allows students to be active in their own knowledge making, by posing their own inquiry questions students not only become more engaged in their own knowledge making but the learning is better embed and more quickly becomes tacit knowledge. For optimum creative engagement and individual interpretation open-ended activities like those in this lesson plan encourage students to generate their own ideas. (Dinham 2020) 

This unit plan also incorporates many opportunities to Explore and Express Ideas viewing artworks as a source of inspiration before embarking on each of the individual processes to form the pages of the artist’s book. Relating to the content descriptor dot point “exploring the ways in which artists communicate their views, beliefs and opinions in artworks and use these in their own art making.” (VCAVAE029)

Present and Perform is central to this whole unit of work, the making of a book is a less common way of presenting visual art but a highly effective way of reaching audiences, particularly in the book rich environments of schools. 

Asking students to Respond and Interpret artworks is key to the assessment process within this unit of work as it includes a process of continuing feedback and reflection at start of each lesson alongside the teacher being continuously engaged with student as they move around the classroom during practical activities. In any art room the teacher being actively engaged in the learning process allows them to quickly see if learning is not occurring and intervene in calculated and meaningful ways, they process of learning being an active pursuit of an art practice makes the learning visible and as research has found the greatest effect on student learning is when they become their own teachers. (Hattie 2012)

Please click here for My Story Unit Plan


Dinham J (2020) Delivering Authentic Arts Education, 4th Ed, Cengage, South Melbourne  
Hattie J (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximising Impact on Learning, Routledge, Oxford
Williams T (2015) ‘Process art’. Grove Art Online,