Before students are able to begin the clay projects we go through a great deal of rules, methods and procedures. Doing clay in your middle school classroom can be a wonderful joy or a logistical and managerial nightmare. To insure that things run smoothly I make sure that kids understand the entire pottery making process. Using our art textbook, some informational videos and posters as well as class discussion we build a detailed vocabulary list of terms that will be important for our clay unit. Before the get to work we discuss these terms along with the general classroom rules and expectations about clay. Then they must draw a sketch of their plan in ACTUAL size (this helps me know how much clay they will need and how long the project will take) and indicate which nethod they will use (slab, pinch, or coil.) Finally, they will begin working with their wet clay.
Before choice, when I taught full class lessons we would begin with a tile assignment. I will often still recommend this type of thing to students new to pottery clay. Because choice is becoming more important for my classroom. They can choose the method type they will use and the size and difficulty of the project. I have several idea books along with step by step instructions for some projects. The important thing is for the students to go through the entire creative process.