Let me explain...
With a color wheel on the wall, why must my students make one? I can give them primary colors, and with ANY project I choose, force them to mix to learn how to make their colors WHILE making a work of art. I suppose on a test, a mini color wheel can be made to be assessed, but I digress.
I can have a poster with shaded forms, but when we draw objects I have my students shade right on their sketches and projects. I don't have them draw "my still-life," they either make one, or bring in objects that "speak" to who they are.
We sketch, we plan, we write, and we do. I see no value to doing any project where 2 kids, or worse, a whole class has the same outcome in an art room. If names must be on work so the kid who made it knows which one is theirs... I see that as an indication of failure on my part...I know we need names on work so we can grade it - but a kid should not have to see their name to know it's theirs!
...And this is my k-12 approach, and always has been for 25 years...
What am I missing? What don't I get? Why do some projects look like they came off a Wonka assembly line?
Any project can be designed to focus on a specific skill without resorting to the cookie-cutter or exercises. Here's one example (see image below). Before painting I often have students learn to blend, and we use oil pastels as an intro or transition media. I pair it with the spectrum too. So the background is the "skill-based" item with blending and ROY G. Biv, the foreground silhouette includes 1 or 3 natural elements (From a photo resource or observation), and a figure or two that represents the student doing something that illustrates who they are as a person, in this case, a kid that loves astronomy.
Yes, everyone will have a similar background, but each one will have a unique and personal foreground. The natural element is supposed to be expressive. Sad tree, little bonsai, scary, or maybe just a bush... then the figure is doing something the student feels speaks to who they are or what they enjoy, adding that personal/personality element.
Even in a TAB setting, kids can choose a project they want, just require that somewhere they blend the spectrum. OR have a check list and check off that skill when a child shows it to you at some point during the year...
I am not even remotely suggesting that one skips fundamentals and allow students to sink or swim in the classroom. This does not have to be an all or nothing experience where "artsy" students do well, and those with little experience "sink." I fully understand that what I suggest is different than what many people do, and different is scary, and often rebuked out of hand.
My experience, from Kinder through 12th grade, over 25 years, big and small classes, is that kids CAN LEARN fundamentals without having to do cookie cutter exercises or projects EVER. I will admit, it takes a tad more forethought, a bit more planning, but both the students and yourself will be richer for the experience. There will be more on-task art-making, and less time "wasted" on non-art making.
If you want to start small, that's fine. Give them cakes of Yellow and Blue. Do ANY PROJECT you want. Paint a dream they had this past week, paint a garden you'd like to play hide and seek in, paint the monster under your bed, or the mythological creature that will protect you from your fears... and I swear, those kids will learn in short order that when blue and yellow touch, a magical green appears, and you won't have wasted ANYONE'S time with an insipid color wheels or shading cones that can be posted on the wall ever again.
They will have expressed their personal dreams, fears, wishes, etc. EVERY project will look different. EVERY project will have a story, EVERY project will be an honest and real work of art...
And every child will know yellow and blue makes GREEN.