01. Global Prehistory, 02. Ancient Mediterranean, 03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, 04. Later Europe & Americas, 05. Indigenous Americas, 06. Africa, 07. Central & West Asia, 08. South, East, & Southeast Asia, 09. The Pacific, 10. Global Contemporary, Art & Humanities, Teaching

An AP Art History Pacing Guide

An AP Art History Pacing Guide

There are many ways to configure the AP Art History course, and each year & situation looks a little different. So please note that this is ONE way to pace this course. But I always finish the 250 with a few weeks of review, I don’t kill them with homework & I am alway happy with my pass rate. It works for me and I am sharing, because it may work for you too.

A couple notes before you dive in:
  • I do not organize my course strictly by the Content Areas, however I generally follow a chronological & geographic trajectory. Some units have many Content Areas put together, other are all, or part, of one Content Area. Each hyperlinked unit title has a pdf coversheet with the images I group together in that unit and modified key ideas from the AP Art History CED.
  • My school year starts mid-August, we have a week off for Thanksgiving, 2 for Winter Break & 1 for Spring Break.
  • My schedule is block (100 minutes) twice a week with 40-minute classes on Wednesday; however I have also done this general pacing on an everyday-50-minute period schedule too.
  • Many of my day-to-day lessons can go into different orders, I am always switching that up. I treat each day as it’s own “theme.”

Unit 1: Global Prehistory

I take two days as a welcome back to school/icebreakers/get to know this class before diving right in! I hate hate hate the first week back; it’s awkward, I’m awkward & no one knows each other. I find that jumping into collaborative learning “breaks the ice” better than silly introduction activities. I know I am in the minority with this but it works for me.

I take 1 week for Prehistory – fast I know! I go quickly, but focus a lot on skills. Prehistory is little a tiny portion of the test but these images help students build their observation & note taking skills for the rest of the year. The first image I do is the Jade cong; I do a collaborate article jigsaw and group notecard practicing identifying Form, Function, Content & Context (FFCC from here on out). That lesson takes about 40 minutes; the only other image that receives that much individual attention is Stonehenge.

Lesson organization:

The homework for this unit is super light: I have students finish their Jade cong notecard by watching the “Working Jade” video (3:48)  by the Asian Art Museum & read a one-page article to prepare for a discussion on Stonehenge. I also do not assess the students at the culmination of this unit; I do, however, collect their notecards for a grade.

Read more: Prehistoric Posts

Unit 2: Ancient Egypt & the Near East

This is a two week unit, culminating in an assessment which includes Prehistory. I also begin my ID quizzes in this unit. About once a week students will be quizzed on 5 images from that unit (that I have already covered in class). They get 3 minutes total to get 3 parts of the ID with 5 images projected at once. I always go back and forth on doing these quizzes but, every year after our AP Exam debrief, students say I should keep them. They suck, but they help. I also begin to introduce the FRQs in this unit. I focus on the comparison FRQ early on in the course because it is an incredibly useful skill all year long.

I try to keep homework to a minimum; this class is an elective and I am mindful of that. I also have a WIDE range of learners (top 10 graduates + barely graduating). I want it accessible to all while providing a challenge (& the ability to pass) for my high achievers. Therefore, about once a unit students will be assigned an image to learn at home & write a mock-15 minute FRQ. I emphasize that my goal is not to hurt their grade, but provide a peer review & commentary on their art history writing. This way I hope to cut down the temptation to cheat.

Lesson organization:

Read more: Lesson Plans: The Egyptian Book of the Dead

Unit 3: The Classical World

I finish teaching Content Area 2: Ancient Mediterranean with a 2.5/3 week unit on the Etruscans, Greeks & Romans; I also toss in Petra (from Content Area 7: Central Asia) into this unit too. I do not do extensive historical introduction to these, or any other civilizations (that took too much time), so each lesson includes a bit of history with the art. Additionally, I require that students do notecards on their own time with brief historical context for each civilization I cover. For this unit they would need to do one the Etruscans, the Greeks, and the Romans using Khan Academy articles.

Lesson organization:

  • Ancient Greek Vases (~40 min)
  • Classical World Mortuary Monuments (~100 min)
  • Classical Athens (~100 min)
  • Temple of Minerva & Pantheon FFCC Chart (~40 min) – practicing comparison
  • The Male Body in the Classical World (~50-60 min)
  • Roman Architecture Stations (~100 min) – not including the Pantheon because it is covered in a previous station
  • Victory & Defeat in the Classical World (~40 min)
  • HW: Parthenon sculptures FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Art through Time – The Body video
  • BONUS: I sometimes do an assessment with a 30-min FRQ for this unit, but depending on how my pacing is going (hello hurricane season!), I sometimes opt out
Read more: AP Art History: The Ancient Mediterranean by Region

Unit 4: World Religions

This is where I diverge the most from the march of the AP Art History content areas. This unit is an introduction to the major religious tenants & art of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, & Islam, but I do not address Judaism here, I do it in the Middle Ages instead. The goal of this unit is not to address every image that falls into those religions contexts; we will visit religious architecture (especially churches) throughout the course. Because this unit ends right at Quarter Exams, I do not do a separate assessment on it.

Lesson organization:

  • Shiva vs Buddha in Art (~40 min)
  • Hindu & Buddhist Sacred Spaces (~100 min)
  • Comparing Christian & Islamic Art (~100 min)
  • Islamic Religious Architecture Posters & Gallery Walk (~100 min)
  • Icons & Iconoclasm (~40 min)
  • HW: Ryoan-ji FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Global Iconoclasm Article & Discussion Post
  • BONUS: World Religions One-Pager
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Cosmology & Belief video
  • BONUS: Faith in Art Research Essay
Read more: Guidelines for Teaching World Religions

Unit 5: European Middle Ages

This short 2-week unit has some overlap with the previous one: the Theotokos is a Byzantine image, the mosque of Córdoba falls into the historic/geographic period of al-Andalus. I know many teachers combine the Middle Ages with the Renaissance, I like to keep them separate for instruction purposes, but I assess them together. These two periods are great for practicing continuity & change FRQs!

Lesson organization:

  • Byzantine Empire (~100 min)
  • Early Medieval Europe (~40 min)
  • Al-Andalus (~100 min)
  • Bayeux Tapestry Webquest (~100 min) – this lesson does not need to be a full block period but I make sure it falls on our PSAT day for Juniors because it is a self-paced assignment that can be easily made up at home
  • Romanesque churches (100 min)
  • Gothic Churches (~100 min) – this include a fantastic 50 min documentary on Chartres Cathedral
  • Bible moralisées (~30-40 min)
  • HW: Röttgen Pietà FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Puzzling through Illuminated Manuscript Activity
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Writing video
Read more: Student Series! Chartres Cathedral

Unit 6: Eurasian Renaissance

This unit is where most AP Art History teachers get themselves off track. Many people lovveeee the Renaissance and cannot image an art history class where they do not get to teach Masaccio or Michelangelo’s Pietà. I get it; we have been trained to believe that this period in European (Italian) history is the zenith of all art. I hate to break it to you, but it’s not. Teach the course, keep on pace. Do not measure all art against the Italian Renaissance.

Now, I will say, this is the perfect unit to begin introducing attribution to specific artists. That provides you with a way to show some of those extra pieces you are *dying* to include. However, stick to the same media as the piece from the 250 (they’re not going to test these kids on Michelangelo’s sculpture when we have a fresco in the curriculum). I assess on the Middle Ages + Renaissance with lots of attribution questions & the unit is their first lesson on the argumentative FRQ.

Note: I play around with the organize of this unit all the time! There are just so many fun ways to organize these pieces. The lesson organization listed below is just what I currently have; it is not the same one I did last year nor the year before.

Lesson organization:

  • Renaissance Perspective (~40 min) – this is JUST a day on da Vinci’s Last Supper
  • Renaissance Wealth & Art (~100 min)
  • Classical meets Catholic Stations (~100 min)
  • Northern Renaissance & the Protestant Reformation (~40 min)
  • Renaissance Churches (~100 min) + Pontormo’s Entombment of Christ, I always have a hard time finding a place for that piece 
  • Sistine Chapel Webquest (~40 min + finish for HW)
  • HW: Basin (Baptistère de Saint Louis) FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Introduction to the Argumentative FRQ
  • BONUS: Art through Time – The Urban Experience video
Read more: AP Art History Hunting in Florence, Italy

Unit 7: Native & Post-Contact Americas

I teach all of Content Area 5: Indigenous Americas plus the relevant pieces from Content Area 3 & 4. I find it to be an incredibly effective way for students to trace the changes native-based arts underwent in the centuries of Europeans influence. I tend to teach these pieces more geographically, organized by the cultures that produced them, and not chronological. Because this unit always falls around Thanksgiving (convenient right?) I do not do a traditional MCQ assessment, instead they write open-ended (not AP style) FRQs at home. The unit culminates with a poster project that address all the pieces (except the Codex Mendoza because it has it’s own lesson) that were created after Americas were exposed to the Europeans. The students have to address native aspects and traditions along with the changes and continuities seen from European contact.

Lesson organization:

  • The Maya (~40 min)
  • Aztec & Inka Stations (~100 min)
  • Codex Mendoza FRQ Workshop (~40 min)
  • Native Arts & the Environment Triad Teaching (~40 min)
  • Americas Cultural Convergence Project Work Day + Gallery Walk (~180 min)
  • HW: Ruler’s feathered headdress FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Converging Culture video
  • BONUS: At-home 40 min FRQ assessment
Read more: Catholic Culture: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Unit 8: Eurasian Baroque

I used to put this shorter-unit together with the Renaissance but then I got “European fatigue” going straight through from Medieval to Renaissance to Baroque without breaking it up with non-white art. I am much happier splitting up those two European art periods, plus it gives students an opportunity to review. This unit usually aligns with our end-of-semester Exams (but sometimes I can squeeze in East Asian art before testing; however I prefer to start that afresh in January), therefore I usually do not separately test on this unit.

Lesson overview:

  • Eurasian Baroque Princely Courts (~100 min)
  • The Personal (retelling) History of Marie de’Medici (~40 min)
  • Baroque Churches (~100 min)
  • Northern European Domestic Art (~100 min)
  • High on the Holy Spirit: Women & the Church (~40 min)
  • HW: Caravaggio Attribution FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Baroque FRQ Workshop
  • BONUS: Art through Time – History & Memory video
Read more: AP Art History Hunting in Rome, Italy

Unit 9: East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa & The Pacific

As said above in the European Baroque section, sometimes (depending on when our winter break starts) I can manage to cover East Asia before semester exams. More often than not, however, it is covered when we return in January. I have debated a few different places to “stick” East Asian art because it feels like an orphan with the way I organizes the other units. This placement (of an admittedly geographically weird unit) seems to have worked the past couple of years. This is my last “Non-Western” unit and it is the rest of Content Area 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, Content Area 5: Africa (all but the mosque of Djenné) & all of Content Area 9: The Pacific. I always end this unit with an MCQ + 15 min FRQ assessment for this unit. Non-Western art tends to be difficult for my students, but I stress that they have to know it like they know the “easy Renaissance” stuff.

Note: All my East Asian lessons are together but they could totally be more integrated with the African & Pacific arts. I have one lesson that crosses all three regions with the moai, Nan Madol, Forbidden City & Great Zimbabwe (Monumental Art & Architecture).

Lesson organization:

  • Power & Prestige in East Asia (~100 min)
  • Comparison Asian Portraits of Power (~40 min)
  • Experiencing Nation in East Asian Art (~40 min)
  • African & Pacific Portraits of Power (~100 min)
  • Monumental Art & Architecture (~100 min)
  • African & Pacific Symbols of Power (~50 min)
  • Navigation Chart Recreation Activity (~40 min)
  • African & Pacific Masks Project Work Day + Presentation (~180 min)
  • Barkcloth (~40 min)
  • African & Pacific Powers of Belief FFC Chart & Discussion (~100 min)
  • HW: Reliquary figure (byeri) FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Masks FRQ
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Ceremony & Society video
Read more: Book Review! China in Ten Words

Unit 10: Western 18th & 19th Centuries

I really love this 3-3.5 week unit. There are so many different styles of art here and, by now the students are really seeing the art historical threads come together. By this point, I have covered all “Non-Western” art so we can discuss appreciation and appropriation (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Paul Gaugin, & Japonisme are perfect for this). Please make sure you make your students aware of this inclination of the “great” Western artist. We have always shared culture globally, we just have not always given credit where credit is due. I like to give an assessment with this unit as a checkpoint midway through Quarter 3; sometimes it is just an essay, other times I can squeeze in some MCQ questions. As you have noticed, I do not kill and drill with tests, that does not mean however I am not assessing their progress; tests and quizzes are not the only ways to chart growth.

Lesson organization:

  • Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery FRQ Workshop (~40 min)
  • Rococo & Naturalism (~100 min)
  • Neoclassicism (~100 min)
  • Romanticism (~100 min)
  • Realism & Orientalism Partner Comparison (~100 min)
  • Early Photography Triad Teaching (~40 min)
  • Impressionism & 19th Century Avant Garde (~100 min)
  • HW: Palace of Westminster FRQ & Peer Review
  • HW: Japonisme Attribution FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: “Isms” Posters
  • BONUS: Stylistic Influences Essay
Read more: AP Art History: Teaching the Tête a Tête

Unit 11: Western 20th Century

The 20th century covers a lot of very different periods, I emphasize the “isms” here like I do in the previous unit. By this point my students have all the basic skills down so I have a lot of fun with this unit. There are more hands-on lessons here than any other unit I think. For example: students make 5-minute Fauvist portraits of their partner, create a Dada-esque collage with falling paper, compete  with a “Shark Tank” style presentation to save one architectural masterpiece, and complete a Mondrian puzzle. This unit usually culminates right at our Quarter 3 Exams (in which I give one of our practice AP MCQ Exams), so I do not give a separate test. I would love to also give the Historical Influences Essay, but I have not had the time the past two years.

Lesson organization:

  • Introduction to Modernism (~100 min)
  • Minority Voices in Art (~40 min)
  • Dada and Surrealism Stations (~100 min)
  • Fauvism & German Expressionism Stations (~100 min)
  • The “Modern” Woman FFCC Poster (~40 min)
  • Abstract & Abstraction (~40 min)
  • Political Art in Action (~40 min)
  • Save Our Buildings Work Day + Presentations (~140 min) – this covers all the 20th & 21st century works of architecture
  • HW: Klimt’s The Kiss FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: “Isms” Posters
  • BONUS: Historical Influences Essay
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Dreams and Visions video
Read more: My AP Art History “250”

Unit 12: Global Contemporary

This is my final unit, and, if everything goes well that year, it is usually the only unit I have to cover after spring break. I use many of the thematic days below to embed review; for example, the lesson titled “Female Sexuality” is a great time to look over the female nude in art (Venus of Urbino, Olympia, Grande Odalisque, etc.). I do not do an assessment only on Global Contemporary because immediately after I finish that unit I do a full Mock AP Exam. It takes about a week, a lot I know, but it doubles as my students final (with an AP-style curve) and I use it as a diagnostic tool to see what content areas or skills I need to spend more time on during our review period.

Lesson organization:

  • Reclaiming the Past (~100 min)
  • National & Global Identity (~100 min)
  • Meditative Art (~100 min)
  • Abstracted Nature (~40 min)
  • Black American Voices (~100 min)
  • Confronting Cultural & Gender Stereotypes (~40 min)
  • War! What is it Good For? (~40 min)
  • Female Sexuality (~60 min)
  • HW: All the Content Area AP Progress Checks – for completion credit
  • HW: Stadia II FRQ & Peer Review
  • BONUS: Mock AP Exam
  • BONUS: Timeline/Map Review
  • BONUS: “Last Supper” Review Party
  • BONUS: Art through Time – Conflict & Resolution video
Read more: Lesson Plan: Global Feminism through Visual Culture

Teacher-to-teacher: I do not yet have blog posts with breakdowns of my lesson plans, honestly they’re still very fluid, but if you see something and want what I’ve got I am more than happy to share.


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